Šileika Film Premieres in Vilnius

The Lithuanian daily Lietuvos rytas writes that this year’s highest budget Lithuanian film “Laikinai jūsų” (based on his book Provisionally Yours) premiered in Vilnius at the Forum Cinemas Vingis on November 24. The historical drama-crime thriller was directed by Ramūnas Rudokas, and together with his team, “went over and above” in his mission to transport the audience into Lithuania’s post-WW I era. The reviewer writes that the sets were impressive, with computer graphics recreating various historical sites, and the story was suspenseful and rich with emotion.       

Antanas Šileika was present at the premiere, and thanked the film crew for their amazing work. The article notes that Šileika was born in Canada and writes novels in English on Lithuanian themes.

“Find me an author who would not want his novel made into a film?” said the author at the premiere. He admitted that in March, 2020, there were serious questions about who would write the script – it was the beginning of the pandemic. “Communication stopped, and my plans felt like a pipe dream. I continued writing my novels in Toronto, and just this past spring when I came to Vilnius I found out that work was actually in progress, and I was able to meet director Ramūnas Rudokas, male lead Simonas Storpirštis and other members of the crew. I saw the film for the first time only two days ago. My impression? Fantastic. People ask me whether it was disturbing to give away my vision – isn’t it like giving away your child? Yes. I gave up my child – but into very good hands. I knew it would end well.”

The screenplay was written by a threesome – history buff Aidas Žiliukas, US film associate Tomas Vengris and British cinema scholar Simonas Mozūra. “Two heads are better than one, and three are better than two”, said Žiliukas – “because there are more ideas to choose from. Writing a screenplay is fairly difficult, it presents specific challenges and requires great creativity – and when you bring together three different points of view and three different sets of experience, things change again. Creating a screenplay, you have to keep the Lithuanian budget in mind, although in this film we used a fair amount of computer graphics, so we were able to fantasize more than we could have five years ago. This project was one of the most interesting I’ve worked on, both because we came from different vantage points and because of the theme.” “The film is multi-layered,” explains Žiliukas. “On one level,  it’s an interesting spy and love story. Others will see things they never read in text books. Usually the first independence period is presented as quite rosy – the signatories met, declared independence and hurray. Maybe adding a few details about fighting the Poles, the Bolsheviks and the Bermontians. But in fact there were parallel intrigues, and it was a very unstable period, while the higher powers were dividing spheres of influence. I think it’s the first film allowing a glimpse into the undercurrents of the time.”

The protagonist in the novel is Justas Adamonis, Šileika explained. “I created him from a real person, someone who arose in history. In catastrophic situations there is always a person who helps guide events in a certain direction. Such a man was Jonas Polovinskas, a Lithuanian from Kaunas, who had seen much violence during World War I and the Revolution. But he had also learned about counter-intelligence. When he reappeared in Kaunas in 1920, he was immediately recruited to head Lithuanian counter-intelligence to fight the new country’s enemies, both internal and external. What an interesting metamorphosis! Another occurred when he was invited to lead the insurrection in Klaipėda in 1923, so as to lessen the risk for his family, he changed his name to Jonas Budrys. There were many such transitions in his life. Budrys goes from counter-intelligence agent to governor to diplomat to chicken farmer in America, where he would write about his years in Kaunas.”

Šileika said he found the memoir at a rummage sale in Toronto and bought it for 25 cents. “It captured me right away,” said Šileika. “A brave, self-confident risk-taker, a man of principle to an extent, but a true defender of Lithuania. That’s how we remember Jonas Budrys, who was recently re-interred in Klaipėda, years after the insurrection. But his metamorphosis doesn’t end with his death. The legends continue.”

“To recreate a fragment of the past, you have to understand that period and that fragment. If you haven’t delved into it and you don’t know what was happening, what people looked like, or the streets, or the times, what the feeling was, then reproducing it on the screen would have been very difficult. But even if we have conveyed even 50-60 percent of the mood and the atmosphere, the whole creative team is very happy“, said the director. “And I think that it will be a film to be enjoyed not only by our dear audience and fans, but by President Nausėda and his team, because it is a page from Lithuania’s history that we have recreated on screen, and people need to know it, understand it, love it, and feel the nostalgia and all the other emotions.”