Screenplay Rimantas Šavelis,
Cinematography Algimantas Mikutėnas
Music Faustas Latėnas
Art director Galius Kličius
Costume designer Zita Gustienė
Eleonora Koriznaitė, Saulius Balandis, Ingeborga Dapkūnaitė, Linas Paugis, Juozas Marcinkevičius, Arūnas Sakalauskas kt.
About the film
- 18th Union Film Festival in Minsk (1985) – prize for best director debut
- Tbilisi International Film Festival (1985) – prize for the best female role for E. Koriznaitė
The debut feature film by director Raimundas Banionis, whose main characters, Linas (Saulius Balandis) and Rūta (Eleonora Koriznaitė), meet in a café in Kaunas. Soon casual acquaintance turns into a serious relationship, but Rūta has a secret. The story of first true love is accompanied by walks around Kaunas, youthful discussions in the company of friends and the first encounters with the challenges of life. The film reveals the mood and feelings of young people, the desire of the younger generation to fight for independence from moralizing parents, and a need to build their lives the way they want.
More about the film
In 1985, the debut feature film My Little Wife by director Raimundas Banionis brought back to the screens of Soviet Lithuania the themes of the city’s youth, which had not been explored in depth since the most successful films by Algirdas Araminas, When I Was A Child (1969) and A Small Confession (1972).
Depicting the city’s youth, their daily life, problems and dreams became the strong point of Banionis’ film and made it stand out in the context of Lithuanian cinema of the time.
It had been a long time since Lithuanian film lovers had seen young women and men meeting in the city’s cafes, passing the time in the spaces symbolising modern life, such as a photo laboratory or theatre.
High school leavers Rūta and Auksė meet Linas, a student of Kaunas Polytechnic Institute, at a Kaunas outdoor cafe. Feelings develop between Rūta, who is dreaming of becoming a zoologist, and Linas, and they start spending time with friends: Linas’ coursemate Tomas, photographer Vytas and his assistant Staselis. Everybody in this šutvė (crew), as they call themselves, is dealing with some issues. Tomas is in danger of being thrown out of the institute, and Linas persuades Rūta to help his friend since she introduced herself as the daughter of the institute’s director, himself an academic. To get the ‘professor’s daughter’ on board and save Tomas, the company takes Rūta to the theatre, a rehearsal of the performance based on August Strindberg’s play The Dance of Death by the famous Panevėžys Theatre, headed in the film by actor Vaclovas Blėdis. With this detail, Banionis not only pays tribute to his childhood (his parents were the actors of Panevėžys Theatre, Donatas Banionis and Ona Banionienė) but also conveys the immense popularity of theatre among the intellectual youth of the 1980s. There are quite a few similar signs of time in this film, created on the brink of the ‘transformation’ of the Soviet Union.
It soon transpires that Rūta’s story about her brilliant father was a lie. In reality, her parents live in a shack, her father is an alcoholic, and, to replace her sick mother, Rūta works as a night watchwoman at an orphanage. However, the social differences between Rūta and Linas do not become the narrative-driving factor but rather a circumstance that gives source to Rūta’s complexes and timidity, and fuels her desire to break from the vicious circle. Rūta, Linas, and their male and female friends are living through important points in life, which are like a series of initiations into adulthood: dealing with feelings, starting a family, losing a loved one, making important decisions about one’s studies or work, choosing military service. In this sense, the film belongs to the ‘coming of age’ category.
The most important elements of My Little Wife though are, of course, the atmosphere of youth, which is most clearly conveyed in the director Raimundas Banionis’ striving to break away from the formulaicity and canon of films for young adults propagated by the Soviets, the unrestricted camera of cinematographer Algimantas Mikutėnas and the ensemble of young actors who had just started their careers at the time. Eleonora Koriznaitė (Rūta), Linas (Saulius Balandis), Ingeborga Dapkūnaitė (Auksė), Linas Paugis (Tomas), Arūnas Sakalauskas (Staselis), Jonas Marcinkevičius (Vytas) - these actors were to become the last generation of film stars of the Soviet era who had to start building their creative biographies during the political upheaval and then continue in newly Independent Lithuania. In My Little Wife, they join the actors of the older generation, Dalia Melėnaitė, Eleonora Matulaitė, Antanas Barčas, Vytautas Paukštė, Galina Dauguvietytė, Regina Zdanavičiūtė, Gražina Balandytė, to form a unique polyphonic ensemble of different generations and actors coming from different acting schools.
Exceptionally lyrical are the scenes between sweethearts Rūta and Linas at the zoo and in the cramped room rented by Linas for his ‘little wife’, which have been delicately filmed by the cinematographer Mikutėnas, romanticising the first touches, kisses, first love. In the final minutes of the film, the seriousness and drama of the relationship between the other couple of the film (the frivolous one), Auksė and Tomas, is revealed, portrayed with great sincerity and at the same time with irony by Ingeborga Dapkūnaitė and the television director and actor Paugis. The film score by the composer Faustas Latėnas colours these scenes with tenderness. One of the most memorable directorial decisions in My Little Wife is the emotive culmination: the protagonists dancing on a river boat sailing on the Nemunas to the sound of Maurice Ravel’s Bolero. This scene is both seeing off Tomas to the military service and a farewell to the carefree youth of the whole ‘crew’.
The actors’ charm, the film score, and the nimble camera work compensate for the plot lines that simplify reality. Despite their superficiality, the literariness of the dialogues and the occasional sentimental note, the director, cinematographer and actors, especially in the final scenes, succeeded in conveying the characters’ newly gained maturity, their sense of responsibility, the realisation of the course of life and how precious everyday moments are.
– Rasa Paukštytė