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Ragne Mandri


The representation of childhood is an underexplored theme in Estonian cinema. Here I focus on changes in depiction of the child in Soviet Socialist Republic of Estonian (ESSR) film, from 1945 to 1975. By exploring this specific period, we can understand the impact of a child character through these visual aspects and storytelling in cinematic narratives.

I explore these depictions in Soviet Estonian cinema by drawing connections to different theories about children in cinema, through a case study of an unique ‘New Wave’ Soviet Estonian experimental feature film, Colorful Dreams (1975), directed by Jaan Tooming and Virve Aruoja.

Working against the normative images of depicting a child in early Soviet Estonian cinema, the film is an important landmark; it represents a multitude of ideas; the child is an idealized character, a one-dimensional carrier of Soviet ideology, then a more ‘natural’ and child-like characterization.

Colorful Dreams is interesting in relation to conventional master narratives in that it explores the child's relationship to time, and to the perspective of the child-character through an experimental and even confusing temporal narrative structure, even using dislocation of sound from the image. Analyzing the process of the creation of this film, enables to draw psychological and other conclusions about child-characters and how they are symbolically represented.

I want to argue that, to achieve credible child-like performances, improvisation can be a vital tool in the process. In the directing methods of Jaan Tooming, improvisation seems to have been the main tool in creating the unique universe of Colorful Dreams.