“For Youth comes in various shapes and forms. In rural Estonia - if Triin Ruumet's The Days That Confused is to be believed - it involves a lot of drink, drugs, violence and 90’s eurotrash. “Life is one long party,” the film’s protagonist Allar remarks wistfully. For a film depicting a life of endless partying, The Days That Confused is strangely inert.
The film starts promisingly. Allar and his friends speed down a highway recklessly, before flipping their vehicle off the road. Allar crawls out, visibly shellshocked by the near-death experience, and leaves his friends to contemplate exactly how his life got to this point. From here, the narrative is propelled forward through happenstance, Allar wandering into a situation or climbing into a car that leads him to the next escapade, brush with danger or romantic engagement. Ruumet's intent with this method of storytelling is presumably to emphasise the randomness of existence, how life happens at you as much as you control it. Instead the narrative mostly feels haphazard, a series of unrelated scenes tethered together by Allar’s presence within them.
With each forward movement, the film loses momentum. As a protagonist, Allar isn’t quite interesting enough to merit the amount of time spent with him, and scenes are often stolen by the young ensemble around him. There are several inspired soundtrack choices (think: upbeat, Estonian pop played ironically over morbid situations); and Sten-Johan Lill’s cinematography is consistently impressive, capturing the sense of a summer without end, days that bleed into night. Moreover, coming of age is something of an exhausted genre. To her credit, Ruumet tries to inject some life into it with a film that is less about people finding themselves than about them getting lost.
Most interesting perhaps, is the film’s depiction of the divide between rural and urban communities, especially for a young person. As Allar considers the possibility of work, weighing conventional labour against the temptation of more illicit options, Ruumet very effectively conveys how a lack of work and leisure options can lead to either crime, recklessness or apathy. The film’s best scene sees Allar and his friends visiting Tallinn, where they descend upon a party held by well-to-do city dwellers. The sense of a mutual distrust is immediate, with the class prejudices of the host group eventually surfacing and a fight breaking out.
Further, its interesting to see such an aggressively masculine film from a female director. In depicting a particular type of male behaviour, Ruumet is entirely convincing, vividly capturing the camaraderie and competition that dominates young male group dynamics, as well as the allure of violence and excess. Ultimately though, The Days That Confused lacks narrative direction, and though the conclusion brings a sense of finality, the lead up isn’t quite compelling enough. “What do you do all day?” “Drink, chop wood, swim naked.” Looking in on the party doesn’t always make for the most exciting experience.
Name: Matt Turner
"The Days That Confused " by Triin Ruumet (Estonia)
Karlovy Vary 2016 - East of the West