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VANADZIŅŠ (LITTLE HAWK) (1978)

Puppet animation, 10 min. Director: Arnolds Burovs; script: Jānis Rokpelnis and Arnolds Burovs, based on a story by Vilis Lācis; art: Gunārs Cīlītis; sculptor Ilze Kiršteina; camera: Pēteris Trups; music: Imants Kalniņš

Monumentally laconic, with precise, emotionally effective details; tragedy without affectation and sentimentality, it is the aesthetically the most solid of Arnolds Burovs’s films.

Arnolds Burovs (1915—2006) is widely considered the father of Latvian animation. It was he who, in 1964, launched animation in Latvia by suggesting that a film crew for puppet animation films be established. Burovs’s work at the Puppet Theater was already well known. In 1966 the first puppet film by the Riga Film Studios, "Ki-ke-ri-gū" ("Cock-a-doodle-do") was made, based on a Latvian folk tale. The very robust puppet animation school under Burovs was in existence for several decades. There is a particular plasticity to the puppets in all of Burovs’s films, even though he has collaborated with different artists; bold close-ups, complicated staging and multi-figure compositions. The most important feature, however, is the individuality and nuanced characterization of each and every puppet.

Burovs’s films are thematically varied; he has made use of a number of literary classics, both Latvian and foreign "Dullais Dauka" (after a story by Sudrabu Edžus; 1968); "Vanadziņš" (after a story by Vilis Lācis), "Cosette" (after "Les Miserables" by Victor Hugo; 1977) etc.  "Pigmalions" (1967) and some other films are based on original scripts and deal with contemporary issues. "Sapnis" (1983) and "Pēdējā lapa" (1984) are based on stories by O’Henry using the iconic image of Chaplin’s Vagabond. The melancholy "Umurkumurs"(1976) was inspired by the poetry of Aleksandrs Čaks; Burovs metaphorical thinking reaches a culmination with "Bimini" (1981) whose impetus was a poem of Heinrich Heine. 

In "Vanadziņš", the action and emotions are focused on three main characters: the little boy nicknamed Vanadziņš, his playmate, the kitten, and Vanadziņš’s father, the fisherman.

The ascetic expressionism of the film with its flashes of poetic metaphors (in the arms of his father Vanadziņš, the Little Hawk, feels "as if he had wings") and the subdued color palette allow Burovs to create the atmosphere of a poor fisherman’s shack, the harsh everyday life in the village, which culminates in a tragedy: one day Vanadziņš’s father does not come home from the sea.   

The unhurried rhythm of the film, even the ritual of the daily rutines, the close relationship between father and son help to set the existentially tragic finale in high relief.

Visually, "Vanadziņš" fits the 1970s and 1980s aesthetics in Latvian fine arts; yet the emotional saturation and nuanced individuality expressed by "lifeless" puppets is what makes Burovs’s art unique. Music is an important part of this expressiveness (Burovs has worked with Imants Kalniņš ("Vanadziņš"), Raimonds Pauls ("Sapnis", "Pēdējā lapa"), etc.)

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