This year’s Ottawa Baltic film festival’s Estonian offering was “Röövlirahnu Martin” a family film suitable for all age groups about a boy and his magical cat that can assume human form. The English language title is “Mat the Cat”, however, in the film the cat is named “Nitram” so one is left to wonder who “Mat” is.
The straightforward plot is what we have come to expect from wholesome family fare features popularized by Disney except that it has a few humorous unique “Estonian” twists that most adults will enjoy. In this case, good natured fun is poked at age old Estonian courting customs.
As might be expected the film has a happy ending. Kevin, the spoilt rotten rich kid with his flashy motor scooter and his snooty single mother with her fashionable wardrobe both get their comeuppance. Martin’s single mother and the school principal who is Marta’s (Martin’s comely object of attention) single father hit it off, although what this will do to the relationship of the children in future is left up in the air.
To my mind the best scene in the picture is when Martin (not quite old enough to shave yet and branded as a trouble maker) shows up at the principal’s office with a bottle of booze (adulterated with fruit juice to fill it up) to ask for Marta’s hand in marriage and sets out his demands for what he considers to be a suitable dowry having been talked into doing this by his magical cat. The cat of course has put a spell on the enraged principal so that when he drives Martin home to confront his mother, his mind immediately moves to other matters once he lays eyes on her.
The casting is well done and the movie does not drag anywhere notwithstanding the predictable plot. The scenes of the sea shore around Martin’s fort atop a huge erratic ice age boulder are spectacular and haunting. They touch a special chord within those of us whose roots are in places such as the islands.
Viewers that have visited Estonia recently will be immediately struck by the impression the movie conveys about living standards currently enjoyed by average rural people in the fatherland. In real life school teachers there are currently not paid well enough to drive the very latest model SUV nor do they live in such large comfortable houses as portrayed. Nowhere in the rural landscape portrayed do you spot those ubiquitous roofs made of Soviet era “eterniit” or the single cow tethered at pasture. On the way home I could not help but reflect that the living standards portrayed in the movie, would undoubtedly have been the norm in Estonia today had not Stalin and his henchmen dragged the country into half a century of darkness and poverty.
Anyway, it was a very enjoyable 75 minutes. I rate the movie an enthusiastic “thumbs up” for the whole family.
Estonian film “Röövlirahnu Martin”