Black-and-white period drama Nova Lituania, exclusively available on MUBI until 8 December, imagines a different history for interwar Lithuania.
A 2019 debut of filmmaker Karolis Kaupinis, the film follows a geography professor who proposes an outlandish plan to move Lithuania’s population elsewhere, in order to avoid an inevitable invasion by its bigger and more powerful neighbours. “I think we’re running out of time as a state,” the eccentric professor argues. As the Second World War kicks off, his Backup Lithuania report convinces no one except the Prime Minister of the country. As the academic’s family relations crumble, a friendship ensues between the two men. With exquisite shots, and a healthy dose of irony, the film is a metaphor for the importance of hope in the midst of a desperate situation.
“It’s our knowledge of what happened in the years to come which makes that historical period terrifyingly present,” Kaupinis says. “While digging into the daily routine of those two figures, turning them into characters, filling out what is unknown to history by fiction, I wanted to make a period piece that would seem historical and contemporary at the same time. To escape the linear understanding of history because so often the past helps me to understand the present better than anything in the present.”
A winner at the Athens International Film Festival, the movie is Lithuania’s nomination for the Oscars.