As part of Scared Sheepless’s coverage of the Fantasia International Film Festival this year, I was very happy to offer a guest feature on an unusual title called Kratt (2021). Better still, we were contacted this week with regards to speaking to the director, Rasmus, about the ideas behind his film and how things have been going since its premiere. Look out for a release of Kratt, which is currently still running on the festival circuit but will hopefully on general release in the not-too-distant future, and in the meantime, here’s Rasmus on a film he describes as “a mullet haircut: business in the front, party in the back”!
1) Thank you very much for speaking with us! Firstly, the idea of the ‘kratt’ is quite novel; I hadn’t heard of this mythology before seeing your film. Why did you choose to bring this aspect of Estonian folklore to the screen?
RM: The mythological story of Kratt is the story of tools breaking the neck of their master. It is very well known in Estonia, but the story has always been told as existing in a world of the past. But now is the time, when we are more surrounded by tools than before: never have we been so dependent on tools. In LA, for example, I couldn’t get to the hotel from the airport without a smartphone. To travel, I needed planes, cars and a Covid passport too. I wanted to bring that old scary story to our modern world, to play with it in the environment of the small Estonian town I live in and to understand its deeply rooted warning. And share it with the world after that 🙂
2) The two lead characters, Mia and Kevin, are absolutely addicted to their smartphones and being asked to do without them leads to their encounter with the kratt! Nora and Harri, who play the leads, are your children, right? If so, what was the experience of working with them like?
RM: We reached a new level of appreciation for each other. I was their director, they were my professional actors. We played together, but it was work. They had their first real job experience with real pay, and they took it very seriously. But it was also a lot of hugs and laughter, drinking lemonade and eating pizza in the middle of the night. It was fun! We all loved it very much!
3) You tackle quite a lot of topics in your film, from the aforementioned ‘smartphone generation’, to political corruption, to the supernatural! How challenging was it to combine all of these ideas?
RM: It was like a very personal puzzle. All the bits here are from my life, things that I have been collecting – experiences, local stories, myths and memories. It just started making sense to me and I couldn’t stop digging deeper. I just had to find all the Kratts that are lurking in my town and shed some light on them. I wanted to be honest, and not to have self-censorship or hidden agendas and when miracles started to happen, I felt we were on the right path 🙂
4) Did you have any concerns about the Estonian sense of humour carrying across for foreign audiences? I feel like I got most of the jokes, but maybe not all!
RM: I have seen this movie with audiences a lot of times now, and what I seem to be doing is crossing out all the jokes that have been laughed at! There has never been an audience that I have witnessed that has got all of them 🙂 Some jokes are visible only with the second viewing, or more. Some jokes are so personal I laugh alone and a couple of them are meant only to a specific target, but I feel the humour is only a bi-product for me. It just happens while I’m concentrating on the details of the story and connecting all the wires for communication to occur. Comedy seems to be the lubricant for ideas too extreme to swallow and laughter is something that is needed to digest them. And it’s more fun to make a comedy 🙂
5) Grandma – played by Mari Lill – was great in the film, and I loved the physical role she played. Can you tell us about working with her? Was it fun on set?
RM: She was one of the reasons I felt I should make this film. I met her on the set once and fell in love. She was known for a role playing a little witch in an old TV show for children, but she’d never been given a leading part in a film. I wanted to tailor her a role she could shine in and when she won the Estonian Oscar for best leading woman for her performance in Kratt, the whole audience stood up. It was a magical moment that made everybody happy and the world a better place. She connected with my children like a real granny from the first day and when production went colder and bloodier, she was a real trooper. We had a lovely time together.
6) Finally, how has the film been received? And do you have any future plans for other features?
RM: The film has been received very well! I have been getting so many lovely messages from friends and strangers all over the world, so I feel that I must have done something right 🙂 I just wrote a new script for the next project, and we are trying to get it off the ground with Tallifornia [the production company behind Kratt]. I’m very excited about it but I don’t want to say a word yet. I just like the mystery 🙂
Many thanks to Rasmus Merivoo for the interview. You can find out more about his work here: http://tallifornia.com/