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Pärn, Priit

Entry updated 26 October 2021. Tagged: Film, People.

(1946-    ) Estonian director, writer and animator; originally a plant ecologist, who in 1974 or shortly afterwards joined Joonisfilm, the animation division of the state-run Tallinnfilm film studios.

Estonian animators have been a major influence on Soviet Bloc animation, in part due to their country's proximity to Finland and its television signals, allowing a wider pool of inspiration. Pärn is probably the most important of these Estonian animators, his films having won numerous awards at international animation festivals, with art exhibitions of his work held throughout Europe. Aside from Estonian animators like as Ulo Pikkov and Priit Tender, he has also had an influence on Western animation, such as Duckman (1994-1997), and on some Anime creators, such as Koji Yamamura.

The works discussed here were directed and written by Pärn, unless stated otherwise. His first was Kas maakera on ümmargune? (1977; vt Is The Earth Round?; 10 minutes) where a boy walks (and swims) around the world, returning home an old man, having experienced many odd sights, including chimeras, mermaids and an Alien with a tropical-island shaped Spaceship; though most unsettling are the ordinary-looking cows. His second, ... Ja teeb trikke (1978; vt ... And Plays Tricks, 10 minutes) has a Shapeshifting panda whose attempts to amuse initially fail, but eventually wins the other animals over. Next was Harjutusi iseseisvaks eluks (1981; vt Some Exercises in Preparation of an Independent Life; 9 minutes) which initially alternates between a boy's exciting life and a man's repetitive work/life routines, until the animator intervenes. Kolmnurk (1982; vt The Triangle; 15 minutes) is inspired by the Estonian folktale "Ahjualune", but with a modern setting, where a wife is repeatedly seduced into allowing the little man who lives in her cooker to eat the meals she prepares for her husband. His fifth was Aeg maha (1985; vt Time Out; 9 minutes), about the adventures of a cat, which is reminiscent of his first two shorts, with non-stop visual gags.

More overt social commentary began with Eine murul (1987; vt Breakfast on the Grass; 25 minutes) with its dedication to "the artists who did everything that they were allowed to do"; this is a surreal look at four people surviving the shortage of food and other necessities in Estonia, as well as their struggles with alienation; it finishes with their posing as the characters in Manet's painting Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe (1862/1863). Next was Hotell E (1992; vt Hotel E; 28 minutes), released the year after the restoration of Estonia's independence; it contrasts life within Hotel Europe – cutting between a nightmarish Eastern Europe and the luxurious but hollow "American Dream" of Western Europe, which one of the Eastern Europeans manages to reach.

Less political was 1895 (1995; 30 minutes), written by Pärn and directed by Pärn and Janno Põldma, celebrating cinema's centennial. It opens with "Cinema – this is a lie", then shows significant events in the life of one "Jean-Louis" who is eventually revealed to be Louis Jean Lumière: after his birth in 1863 [sic] he travels the world and crosses paths with many historical figures – numerous film references are weaved into a very unreliable narrative. "Sweden was a wild country, the only civilized people there were Alfred Nobel and Nils Holgersson, the latter had just invented the Selma Lagerlof clockwork goose." (see Alternate History). After Porgandite öö (1998; vt The Night of the Carrots; 29 minutes) came Karl ja Marilyn (2003; vt Karl and Marilyn; 24 minutes) in which buff babe magnet Karl Marx tires of his superstar life, instructs a barber to shave off his hair, then murders him and is pursued by a detective (see Crime and Punishment); Marilyn Monroe is also prominent. The Easy Writer (2004; 11 minutes), directed by Katja Kettu and written by Pärn, is a story using the "what the author types actually happens" trope – but her baby's scrawls have the same effect.

Frank & Wendy (2004; 75 minutes), written by Pärn and directed by Kaspar Jancis, Ülo Pikkov and Priit Tender, has two American secret agents working in Estonia, whose episodic adventures include facing Nazi dwarfs and a food chain producing hamburgers designed to make their customers hungry. Elu ilma Gabriella Ferrita (2008; vt Life Without Gabriella Ferri; 43 minutes), written by Priit Pärn and co-directed with Olga Pärn, includes a burglar, spies and Scientists, but centres on parents' erotic games and their son's reactions, including immersing himself in the virtual world (see Virtual Reality). Tuukrid vihmas (2009; vt Divers in the Rain; 24 minutes), written by Priit Pärn and co-directed with Olga Pärn, looks at a couple whose jobs – he a diver who works during the day, she a dentist working at night – mean they only meet for a few minutes each day. Lendurid koduteel (2014; vt Pilots on the Way Home; 16 minutes), written by Priit Pärn and co-directed with Olga Pärn, concerns three pilots crossing the desert, their visions and matters of masculinity (see Sex). Though these later films might seem to use more coherent and/or mundane plots than his earlier work, they have frequent bizarre and startling digressions that might or might not reflect on the main story.

Pärn's early shorts were criticized by the USSR State Committee for Cinematography (GOSKINO) and so often had only a limited release – for example, Is The Earth Round? was called "too pessimistic" and not shown outside Estonia – whilst Eine murul was intended to be his fifth film, but had to wait until the onset of Perestroika before he was permitted to make it (note the title of his actual fifth film). His initial works are Absurdist, sometimes recalling the humour of Tex Avery (see Warner Bros. Cartoons), Monty Python-era Terry Gilliam and the look of Yellow Submarine (1968), with a stream of non-sequitur visual gags. These elements continue into his later work, but the fantastic elements become darkly hallucinogenic; Satire, grimmer Humour and a greatly increased stylistic variety are added to the mix, creating memorable, surreal cartoons. [SP]

born Tallinn, Estonia: 26 August 1946


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