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"CEPLIS" (1972)

Feature, 99 min. Director: Rolands Kalniņš. Script: Viktors Lorencs (based on a novel by Pāvils Rozītis); camera: Gvido Skulte; art: Uldis Pauzers; music: Marģeris Zariņš. Cast: Eduards Pāvuls, Gunārs Cilinskis, Helga Dancberga, Regīna Razuma, Aivars Siliņš, Velta Straume, Rolands Zagorskis, Lidija Freimane, Arturs Dimiters, Uldis Dumpis et al.

A still topical, stylistically sophisticated satire on age-long vices and archetypical weaknesses; outstanding work by actors; visuals that match the dramaturgy of the film. 

An eloquent study of character and Latvian mentality, a talented screen version of the 1928 novel "Ceplis" by Pāvils Rozītis, this film directed by Rolands Kalniņš is universally considered one of the corner stones of the history of Latvian cinema. The plot revolves around an entrepreneur and crook Edgars Ceplis (Eduards Pāvuls) whose "business project", producing bricks from Latvian clay turns out to be doomed to failure — the particular type of clay is unsuitable for the purpose. This fact, however, has no adverse effect on Ceplis’s social position or on his ability to squeeze out of tight spots by making others suffer losses that should rightly be his. Even his mistress, Austra Zīle (Regīna Razuma) is not spared.

The authors present a classical narrative, strong and contradictory characters played by outstanding Latvian actors and a subtle visual treatment that helps to highlight the drama of human relationships.

On the one hand, "Ceplis" provides an ironic perspective on the wheeling and dealing of the interwar republic businessmen and, on the other hand, it is a romantic retrospective on that period of independence, accomplished by authentically rendered environment, costumes, objects, and tonality. Given that the film was screened in 1972, the convincing work of the creative team in recreating a kind of "never-land" that free and independent Latvia seemed at that time, commands even more respect.       

As a film that’s characterized by a convincing narrative, perfect acting, outstanding camera and costumes, "Ceplis" has never lost its topicality and popularity.

It was Rolands Kalniņš’s professional intuition that let him choose Eduards Pāvuls for the title role, which became one of the high points of his career. The lead female roles were also perfectly cast: for Regīna Razuma, her role as Austra Zīle was a turning point: a professional dancer, she afterwards became a full-time actress; Helga Dancberga, who had previously performed only on stage, was unforgettable as Berta, the refined Mrs. Ceplis; equally outstanding was Velta Straume as Valērija.     Paradoxically, Kalniņš’s "Ceplis" was a certain exception in his career: Soviet censorship banned two of his earlier films "Akmens un šķembas" (1966) and "Elpojiet dziļi" (1967) and the film "Piejūras klimats" (Maritime Climate) (1974), on which he worked after the success of "Ceplis" and which could have become one of the most stylistically daring comedies in the history of Latvian cinema, was destroyed before it was even finished (a small part of the material was preserved illegally).     Coincidentally, Louis Buñuel’s world famous "Le charme discret de la bourgeoise", which deals with a similar subject matter, was made the same year as "Ceplis".

Dita Rietuma

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