BILLE [“Billie”] is a beautiful, award-winning drama released in 2018. The story concerns a famous Latvian poet, Vizma Belševica, and her childhood in Latvia in the late 1930s. Bille’s family is very poor. Her father is often drunk. He earns money selling wine from a winery. Her mother has become tough as nails and seems contemptuous of Bille. The father and mother argue often. However, Bille is smart and kind, despite being taunted by girls in her school. Will Bille survive acute poverty and her humble family? Will her parents reconcile? Will love triumph?
BILLE opens with a line from one of Vizma’s poems, where she says trees are blessed, except for one variety that’s cursed by the Devil. This Christian theme is woven throughout the story. The acting is realistic. The photography is extraordinarily beautiful, even though the movie takes place in a small area. Like many European movies, however, the jeopardy waxes and wanes, and the movie includes many non-essential storylines. Despite that, BILLE is fascinating for its genre, a great insight into life in a very foreign European environment in the 1930s.
(CC, BB, L, V, AA, M):
Dominant Worldview and Other Worldview Content/Elements:
Strong Christian worldview with prayer, church, statements about being blessed and the Devil, Lutheran baptism, with the theme of going to Heaven and strong moral content such as rebuking drunkenness, commending the family, overcoming poverty, and many other moral messages;
One light profanity;
No overt violence but strong psychological violence, especially the relatives telling Bille she’ll never amount to anything, the father threatens the mother, and the possibility of getting lost in the woods with resulting life and death situations;
No sex scenes or sexual immorality, but some marital kissing;
Alcohol use and some drunkenness;
Smoking and/or Drug Use and Abuse:
No smoking or drugs; and,
Mother is very hard-edged, girl in school attaches title character’s dress to a seat and the dress tears, and some other childish pranks.
BILLE is a beautiful, award-winning Latvian drama about a famous Latvian poet, Vizma Belševica, and her childhood growing up in Latvia in the late 1930s. The cinematography, acting and music are superb, but the movie languishes in places and has a magical realism structure.
Bille’s family is very poor. Her father is drunk most of the time and earns money by selling wine from a cart. The mother, who was probably once beautiful, has become tough as nails and seems to be contemptuous of Bille. The father and mother argue often.
At this point, Bille’s told about Heaven, which is called Dreamland. Bille makes finding Dreamland her personal mission. She leads some of her friends on several long marches through woods and fields to find the imaginary place she can see in her dreams.
Bille is a very kind and intelligent young 8 year old girl. She is even thoughtful of her mother. At one point, her parents decide she should be in school, but first she has to be baptized. They ask a Lutheran priest over to their house. The father has to borrow a suit. Her mother cooks a present for the priest. When the Priest asks Bille and her parents what her name is, she doesn’t say, Bille, she says Vizma. The Priest is a little put off by the family and leaves slightly distanced from them, without accepting the gift they offer him.
When Bille goes to school, she’s taunted by some of the other girls. One girl plays a prank on Bille that accidentally rips her only homemade dress. Even so, Bille, who reads constantly and is very advanced, gains the attention of the teachers, who tell the parents that Bille’s exceptional.
Will Bille be able to survive acute poverty and her humble family? Will her parents reconcile? Will love triumph?
The opening line of BILLE comes from one of Vizma’s poems, where she says that the trees are blessed, except for one variety that’s cursed by the Devil. Christian themes and subplots are woven throughout the story. The acting is totally realistic. The photography is extraordinarily beautiful, despite the fact that the story takes place in a very small area. However, like many European movies, the jeopardy waxes and wanes, and the movie includes too many asides and non-essential storylines. That said, BILLE is fascinating for its genre and a great insight into life in a very foreign environment in Europe in the 1930s.
Vizma Belševica, who died in 2005 at the age of 64, has been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature. The movie comes from an autobiographical trilogy of novels that she wrote. The Soviet Union stopped her from publishing in the early 1970s because she criticized Soviet oppression of other nations like Latvia.
Note: BILLE has yet to be released in the United States. It has only been released in Latvia.
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