Film "Apple in the River", 1974, by Director Aivars Freimanis (1936–2018)
“Apple in the River” (Ābols upē) is a short fiction film (85 minutes) that is a one of a kind film. Begun as a documentary it morphed into a fictional romance. A document of Latvia at a time of heavy industrialisation it has been included in the canon as perhaps one of Latvian film’s most unique experiment.
The director for “Apple in the River”, Aivars Freimanis, was well known at the time as documentary filmmaker, working within the Rīga School of Poetic Documentary traditions, which approached documentary cinema with poetic license. Originally, Freimanis had received permission to make a film called “River” (Upe) about the lives of those who live on a small island in the river Daugava between the west side and east side of the capital of Latvia, Rīga. To examine how their small village life was existing in parallel to the fast industrialisation of the capital just a few hundred metres on the rivers other shore. Towards the end, however, it develops into a semi-fictional film which follows the first moments of the doomed relationship between the two protagonists Janka and Anita.
The film was an experiment for many of those involved, if not especially for the two actors who portrayed Janka, Ivars Kalniņš (1948), and Anita, Akvelīna Līvmane (1951). They were both about to go for the entrance exams at Dailes Theatre after training at the National Studio of Film Acting. There was no text, rather the actors were meant to infiltrate the life and society of this small island as catalysts for events that could be filmed. The film is almost wholly improvised, an interesting challenge for actors in the early stages of their career.
It is not surprising that Freimanis decided to experiment with the combination of these two film genres. The Rīga School of Poetic Documentary was constantly blurring the boundaries between capturing real life unedited and manipulating environments and footage to create a new meaning, pushing towards a more traditional understanding of fiction film. But this was, and remains the only one, that was classified as a fiction film.
While watching the film the documentary tropes are very obvious. The film is slow in pace and often falls into an observational mode. Watching children play on the street, watching residents rushing to catch the ferry to the city for work, old women gossiping on the street and much more. Seemingly natural conversations, which are often improvised, are captured. The camera always seems to be a fly on the wall, as if it isn’t noticed as a stranger on the streets of this small community. The only time it seems to change away from this is when the more staged scenes between the two lovers are interspersed with this documentary footage.
The film is free to watch in Latvia’s territory on the website www.filmas.lv.
Dita Rietuma on the film "Apple in the River" in the Latvian Culture Canon, 2008. (in Latvian)
Brochure for the film "Apple in the River". (1975). Rīga: Latvijas Republikāniskais filmu iznomāšanas kantoris. National Library of Latvia, Collection of Small Prints. (in Latvian)
Brochure for the film "Apple in the River". (1974). Rīga: Latvijas kinematogrāfistu savienības Rīgas kino nams. National Library of Latvia, Collection of Small Prints. (in Latvian)
Dita Rietuma on the film "Apple in the River" in the Latvian Culture Canon, 2008.
Ābols upē [DVD filma]. (2014). Rīga: Latvijas Filma.
„Ābols upē”: [programma]. (1975). Rīga: Rīgas Kinostudija.
Dokumentālistu ienākšana aktierkino režijā, viņu piedāvātais mūsdienu dzīves kinematogrāfiskais traktējums. (1989). No: Padomju Latvijas kinomāksla (152.-158. lpp.). Rīga: Liesma.