Scriptwriters: Algirdas Araminas, Icchokas Meras
Director: Algirdas Araminas
Composer: Algimantas Apanavičius
Cast: Linas Krisciunas, Julija Kavaliauskaite, Elena Remisauskiene, Elena Savukynaite, Kazimieras Valaitis, Gediminas Karka, Henrika Hokusaite
This youth film of the late 1960s was emphatically rejected by critics. And not narrow-minded orthodox ones, but the subtlest “men of the sixties”, Lev Anninsky and Yuriy Aikhenvald. They admitted that "professionally, the film is quite impeccable", that it "...contains the best examples of the modern romantic, lyrical, poetic, impressionistic, antidogmatic film style". But they declared in the same breath: "The trouble is that these are EXAMPLES, that everything is COLLECTED and SECOND-HAND" (Anninsky L. Kogda ia ostalsia malen'kim [When I Remained a Child] // Sovetskii ekran [The Soviet Screen]. 1970. 1. S. 6.) In short, it is an exquisite shell with emptiness underneath it. For the 1960s, a full-fledged dramatic conflict is determined by the indispensable presence of two poles: the hero and the collective. In "When I Was a Child", the collective is not provided in any form. And the adolescent problems of the character seem to the criticics to be almost a whim - there is no story of personality for them here.
Meanwhile, the Baltic culture of the 1960s gravitates towards an existential parable. Especially Lithuanian cinema, in its sophisticated graphic style and sophisticated metaphors, was the leader among the cinemas of the Baltic states. Taking as a basis the sensational (no wonder – it was written by a tenth grader and almost immediately published!) "Farewell, Yellow Cat" (1963) by the Estonian Mati Unt, the director (and before that a brilliant cameraman) Algirdas Araminas offered to write a script based on it to the leading Lithuanian prose writers of the 1960s, Icchokas Meras. Meras, a boy from a Jewish family killed in the summer of 1941, rescued by a peasant woman who hid him during the entire German occupation, had a completely different idea of "what the world rests on" (as one of his most famous novels was called). The total loneliness of a person facing a choice at the moment of personal self-determination is a given in Meras’s prose. And this includes the inevitable teenage loneliness.
That is why there is no place for intoxicating movement in the general "stream of life" here. The hero is doomed to keep looking for his own trajectory. Here time flows very viscously slowly, and in this painful time, the young He and She enjoy the suddenly discovered attraction to each other. There is no generational conflict in the film. The aunt’s grumbling and the even more passive presence of the teacher can barely break the fabric of the narrative. The angry critics recall Antonioni, whose “Zabriskie Point” had just become a hit - and not by accident. Outwardly, the visual style of the film is typically Antonionian: two people within the emptiness and clear geometry of the modern interior design. However, for Antonioni, emptiness means a lack of communication. In Araminas’ film, emptiness also creates a distance, but it is a distance from the constraint, from the shyness that arises due to the awakening mutual attraction of the characters. Actually, what is between them is not a distance but a substance - something outside the prescribed rules of growing up. Their walks look like attempts to escape and not from problems, but to solitude in a personal space independent of the world. Antonioni’s heroes wander the desert in a vain search for the ability to feel. In Araminas’ film, through a sand quarry, somewhat reminiscent of that desert, lies the path to a field that is thrown wide open before the young heroes. They are driven by the desire to endlessly prolong the time given to the two of them.
The neighbor - a woman mime in tights - in Tomas’s view is almost a symbol of the adult world, frightening and fascinating at the same time. In the penultimate episode, he puts theatrical make-up on his face: a naive attempt to accept the adult system of conventions. But in the mirror, he sees only a clown mask. Real growing up is not about giving oneself up, but, on the contrary, the desire to find and preserve one’s own face. And so, Tomas wipes the make-up off.
The seeming repetition of the common techniques of the 1960s cinema turns into a foreshadowing of the main plot of the coming new times. In them, the hero will have to start a journey into himself and to defend the sovereignty of his inner world at all costs.
Viktoria Elizarova, Evgeny Margolit
Based on the short story "Goodbye, Yellow Cat" by Mati Unt.
High school students Tomas and Egle are almost inseparable. Egle learns to draw, and Tomas introduces her to an artist who agrees to give the girl private lessons. Because of these lessons, the young people see each other less and less, and Tomas is jealous. In the studio, in the portraits of a nude woman, he thinks he sees Egle’s face. In revenge, he spends the night with his neighbor, the actress Gina. Tomas again visits the studio, encounters a model there, realizes that he was mistaken in his suspicions, and runs out looking for Egle. Either in reality or in Tomas’s memories, they are together again.