Published Nov 22, 2012Making great strides towards producing popular homegrown cinema, Lithuania has found success with its own version of the Robin Hood myth. Granted, the rebellious rogue Tadas Blinda is a historical nineteenth-century folk hero, but the way the story is presented shows either an obvious affection for the various on-screen iterations of the noble British thief's tale, or a synchronicity in the folklore of disparate regions.
Fireheart: The Legend of Tadas Blinda shares many key characteristics with Robin Hood: Both become leaders of a rebellion against the oppressors of the common people and both hide out in the woods robbing from the rich to give to the poor. Certain scenes, like the brash ambushing of nobility in the forest, play out almost exactly like a low-rent copy of the robberies from Prince of Thieves. There's even a class-divide love interest driving Tadas and an obligatory fight with a Little John figure to prove his worth as leader of the rebels.
Where the tales differ most is in intent.
Tadas is an accidental hero. The first major act of rebellion attributed to him isn't even one he commits. For some context, with the abolishment of serfdom imminent, the Russian army is desperate to pre-empt any signs of resistance from the commoners. An accidental fire in a remote village demolishes the local lord's manor and is blamed on Tadas. Exaggerations begin to circulate among the civilians and the myth of Tadas Blinda is born. This gives the military the excuse it was looking for to start a civil war but, even then, Tadas is resistant to the mantel of leader. He has no interest in fighting and stumbles into the hero role as unintentionally as he spurred the confrontation. His questioning of any group that wants to exert authority over another is what makes Fireheart a more ideologically interesting folktale than that of the fallen nobleman who just wants power back in the hands of the authority figure he's sworn allegiance to.
The production value is limited and many technical elements, like lighting and battle choreography, come across as a bit amateurish but The Legend of Tadas Blinda is reasonably well acted and its unsentimental treatment of death balances the film's whimsical charm with a welcome sense of harsh realism.
With so many similarities to a familiar character and a lack of visceral appeal, this is a film that won't likely have much impact outside of its homeland but it's worth a look for the distinct cultural differences from its British counterparts.
Fireheart: The Legend of Tadas Blinda screens on Friday, November 23rd at 6pm at the Royal. (Tauras Films)