"Olemise ilu" as an inverted nature film

The film Olemise ilu shares many similarities with the nature film: Shots depicting nature fill up most of the screen time, the camera remains in an observational position that does not step into contact with that which is being filmed, and the narrated story depicts the course of life over one year (a common convention in the case of nature documentaries). Nonetheless, one is not dealing with a nature film, because the primary object of the film is not nature, but humankind. If in the case of nature films human beings are telling a story about nature, in Olemise ilu nature has been made to tell a story about Fred Jüssi. Therefore, in this case we are actually dealing with an inverted nature film, wherein the landscapes which we trek in Jaan Tootsen’s film are made to mirror Jüssi’s mental landscapes.

Discussion on the basis of the film clip:

  1. Bring out the most important keywords from Fred Jüssi’s thoughts as presented in the given film clip.
  2. Through what kind of visual figures are these thoughts mediated in the given clip? 
  3. Can you think of any other similar visual metaphors from the film?

Fred Jüssi’s perception of nature and its mediation in the film

Speaking about the depiction of nature in Olemise ilu, the film’s cameraman—and also recognised author of many nature films—Joosep Matjus has said that it is not possible to separate nature and humanity in the film, because in conceptualising nature everything is filtered through ourselves, and what we end up seeing is our own inner world mirrored back. Therefore, nature on screen is always a nature presented from someone’s perspective, and not a neutral environment. In Olemise ilu nature is mediated to us from the perspective of Fred Jüssi, in the way that he hears, sees, and experiences. In the words of director Jaan Tootsen, the film raises many questions related to how the world is perceived: What are our senses? What does it mean, when Fred Jüssi says “I started to live with my ears”? When you listen to a river, what is the water saying to us? How can we find patterns in the world? The micro- and macro-worlds. How do we see beauty there, where we usually do not notice it?

Fred Jüssi has shared his uniquely-personal perception of nature in the context of Estonian natural culture, using very different media, including radio shows about natural soundscapes, photography preserving nature, and in his activity as a nature writer. These different ways of relating to nature come under observation in the next study blocks: “Nature in Word”, “Nature in Image”, and “Nature in Sound”.

  1. Interview with Joosep Matjus in the magazine Eesti Loodus (2018).
  2. Tiit Remm’s article in the anthology Eesti looduskultuur (2005).
  3. Interview with Rein Maran on the making of nature films in Sirp (2008).
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