Egle Vertelyte’s Lithuanian-language film, Miracle, joins the ranks of spot-on Eastern European satires (including two which screened at TIFF 2016: Zoology and Hunting Flies). Like those, at least some working knowledge of the country’s socioeconomic conditions (in this case, Lithuania’s situation in 1992, post-Soviet Union) go a long way to helping bolster your enjoyment and appreciation of the film in question. That being said, Miracle’s dry sense of humor, strong female lead, and intriguing complexities warrant doing your homework.
Irena, expertly played by Egle Mikulionyte, is a struggling overseer of a pig farm. Inherited from her father in the 70s, Irena is very conscious of her family’s legacy. In 1984, there were 4,644 pigs on the farm, and though the economy was tanking, specialized sausages were a common treat at all weddings and funerals, so the business could stay afloat. In the present day, 1992, however, conditions are grim: employees have not been paid for 2 months and dissent is in the air.
Enter Bernardas (Vyto Ruginis), a baseball hat wearing American businessman who claims to have some innovative ideas that will revitalize Irena’s pig farm and wishes to buy it from her. The odd couple literally share Irena’s apartment when he arrives. The gears are in place: the story is an old one – the businessman’s innovations and efficiencies will eradicate the last vestiges of humanity in Irena’s village. However, there are some differences that set this story apart from the many others involving American businessmen. Can Bernardas help Irena with her unappreciative and brutish husband? And will Bernardas give Irena control over her fledgling pig farm? He may look like Donald Trump, but, perhaps, he has some redeeming qualities.
The end of the film ventures into poignant territory, especially as you learn of Irena’s past. Naive idealism of the past never helped anyone, but neither does an incessant push for unyielding progress. This film appropriately asks the question of how to move forward in light of past suffering and hard work when the society that you once lived in no longer knows what to believe.