Gads pirms kara
In the twilight of history, unaware that the world is about to change, Peter, a young doorman from Riga, embarks on a surreal odyssey across Europe. Travelling through Paris, London, Prague, Vienna and elsewhere, he has started calling himself Hans. In these cities, he finds himself among communists, anarchists, proto-fascists and nationalists. He meets copies of Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky and the vampiric Proust, and falls for Alma, the doppelganger of the spy Mata Hari. He also meets Freud in a life reform commune in the Swiss sanatorium Monte Veritá, or the Hill of Truth. Maybe he can help? The identity crisis and paranoia are relentless: who is Peter really?
The Year Before the War is director Dāvis Sīmanis’ third feature film and premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. It is a historical fantasy, a stylised satire about pre-war paranoia with references to Canadian director Guy Maddin and Czech director Jan Švankmajer. Writer Georges Simenon’s legendary character Peter the Lett with his many names (Pēteris Mālderis, Jānis Žāklis and, in the film, Hans) was the inspiration for Sīmanis and his co-writers Tabita Rudzate and Uldis Tīrons. Peter, played by Czech actor Petr Buchta, wants to act, but, in Wittgenstein’s words, the era throws him like dice leaving him to the mercy of the new ideological currents, Dadaism, psychoanalysis and anarchism that were bubbling under the surface of Western civilisation in 1913.