Karu süda

Estonia

Synopsis

THE HEART OF THE BEAR, based on the best-selling Estonian novel by Nikolai Baturin, is a romantic drama about adventures, living and romance in the extreme conditions of the Siberian wild forests.

A young European of 26, Nika starts off towards the end of the world, towards Siberia, where he ventures to become a hunter.

He becomes acquainted with a Siberian tribe, who help him to build his first hunter's hut. The old tribal chief Tolkun (Full Nut) befriends the young hunter. He guides him along his existence and teaches him the beliefs of Siberian tribes.
The tribe intend to marry him to a young girl, whose name is Sunbeam, but Nika refuses. Sunbeam, offended by the refusal, attempts suicide. Nika feels guilty because of having caused harm without intending it.

Everybody and everything in Siberia has a spirit. During Nika's long lonely hours in the forest, the Nganasan, his shadow, his Master appears to him. That embodied shadow keeps the young hunter away from dangers, teaches him how to manage in the forest, and announces the faults he has made.

Occasionally one day he witnesses the love rituals of two bears. Suddenly, the male bear notices and attacks him. Nika has no other way but to kill the bear to defend himself. The female bear chases him and the hunter believes it's the end, having no more cartridges in his gun. But astonishingly, instead of attacking him, the bear starts to flirt with him - isn't Nika the winner of the flight? Starting with that day, Nika and the bear become little by little befriended.

Young and daring, Nika pleases to different women. His buddy's daughter Laima has a crush on Nika, but he hastily marries a young school teacher, Guitya. The marriage disappoints him, having no habit of staying at home since his passions are the forest and hunting.

One morning, Nika finds a young woman in a wolf-trap. She wears animal skins and speaks no human language. The hunter heals her wounds, teaches her how to talk a little and to do the most simple household works. They become attached to each other, but the woman refuses any sexual relations. In spring, she disappears and the hunter starts to have visits of the female bear around his house again.

One night, a spring flood tears the school house down to the river, with children who are asleep inside it. All children drown. Guitya, who feels her guiltiness, is in shock. Nika sends her over to Europe in order to help her to recover, promising her to join her later on. He will never do that.
Nika is free again. He enjoys his freedom and leaves into the forests.

In summer, when Nika is in the woods, he recovers by accident his "Forest Woman" and they have sex. In winter, she gives birth to a small girl. Nika is overwhelmingly happy but when spring arrives, the woman leaves, taking their daughter with her. Nika becomes sick of longing.

Nika goes searching into the taiga: he passes through the familiar places trudging on the snow, gets down into the valley. The wind starts to blow, there comes heavy snow. Nika calls his dogs but sees a huge animal running towards him. Nika shoots it and kills it at once. In fact, it is his friend, the bear. Nika's heart is aching, he falls ill, he has high temperature. He dissects the animal, takes its burning heart in his hands and carries it to his house. He presses the bear's burning heart to his own, that's how he finally falls asleep, calmed down.
This world, full of mythological beliefs, makes Nika's choices responsible for the destiny of others. Our hero passes through a mystical love with the bear-woman. He is ready to forget the village and people, but he is just a man ... Could it be a new start? Whatever may happen, a man is always seeking his happiness ...

Director's Biography

Born in 1949 in Rakvere, Estonia, Arvo Iho graduated from theAllunion Film Institute in Moscow as a cinematographer (1976). He worked as an intern for Andrei Tarkovski's film STALKER (1977/78) and as a cinematographer for feature films at the Tallinfilm-Studios (1977-83). He has been making films as a writer, director, cinematographer and producer ever since and has also taught cinema in Sri Lanka, USA and Finland.

Filmography:
1991 SISTER OF MERCY
1990 THE CRONICLE of SIRENIKI, doc.
1988 CHRISTMAS PICTURES, doc.
1986 THE BIRDWATHCER
1987 The PEACEBROKER, doc.
1985 NAERATA OMETI
1983 LURICH
1982 ARABELLA, THE PIRATE'S DAUGHTER
1981 CORRIDA
1980 THE IDEAL LANDSCAPE
 | 

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Arvo Iho

Written by: Nikolai Baturin, Arvo Iho, Rustam Ibragimbekov

Produced by: Mati Sepping

Cinematography: Rein Kotov

Production Design: Silver Vahtre

Costume Design: Andro Kööp

Original Score: Peeter Vähi

Main Cast: Rain Simmul (Nika / Nganasan), Dinara Drukarova (Gitya), Ilyana Pavlova (Emily), Külli Teetamm (Laima)

Nominations and Awards

  • European Cinematographer – Prix Carlo Di Palma 2001
  • Feature Film Selection 2001