I did an email interview with “Detsembrikuumus” producer Artur Talvik. (I’ve slightly edited his answers for clarity.)
What’s the source for the plot?
Different history books are the source of our plot. The problem for the Reds was that all their brains had recently stopped. In the beginning of the film, the newspaper boy shouts the headlines of the so called Trial of 149. Soviet Russia published a handbook some years later (maybe 1934) called “How To Make Armed Coup” or something like that. There must be basic analysis about what went wrong in Tallinn 1924. I haven’t read this book personally but it must exist also in english. Estonian historian Hain Rebas told me about that book.
What about the narrative for the characters? Are they real?
Tanel and Anna are fictional. Lawyer’s prototype is Jaan Anvelt. General Põdder was real hero of this night and something very similar happened to him. Anyway he finished drinking 4.45 and on his way to home he recognised that the coup started. general Unt is real and he controversial death in 1932 and also controversial behaving this night gave us opinion that he played strange play (maybe traitor, historians are arguing). Zinovjev is real and was the main organizer in Soviet Russia.
Did the battles in the streets of Tallinn really happen in that way? Did Põdder lead a group against the rebels? Was there really this showdown at Balti Jaam (Baltic Train Station)?
The battles are pretty similar. Althought the battle at the 5th police station wasn’t so big. The battle at the Ministry of Defense was probably similar, but the ministry wasn’t the Red headquarters and the counterattack by the guards started earlier. Something similar happened at Balti Jaam. The battle there was actually one of the biggest but we decided do not go back there because we tried to fallow Tanel’s moves. The battle at the military school barracks was probably historically the biggest. So this is very similar.
Põdder was drinking with his friends officers. Põdder knew that something will happen. So he and some of his friends stayed out drinking and they were also kind of patrolling. But they started to go home before coup started. Põdder bunched up improvised group of officers and started counterattack. This drunk independence war hero on the streets of early morning Tallinn wasn’t certainly in the plans of the Reds.
When did you first hear about this episode in Estonian history? Did you know about it before? Is it well-known amongst school children, etc?
I went to secondary school during the soviet time. The Soviets had their point of view about this coup and it was tought in school from reds point of view. So I actually knew. We were very critical in school against almost everything what was thought in history lessons. So I knew about it pretty well. I was very surprised when I started to promote the project that so few people knew about this night. Even if some knew that something happened, but they didn’t know what exactly. So i understood that our first step was to speak about this night as much as possible.
What was the most difficult thing about making this film? What was the most surprising?
December heat was extremely hard production. Permanent lack of money, extreme conditions, winter, filming in the middle of Tallinn, some days almost half of the old town was closed for traffic by us. Most of the filming was during the nights and exteriors. The worst weather conditions were during the shooting of Balti Jaam (it was shot in Tapa). There we had -15 degrees and strong wind. So this night most of the actors and extras got ill. But nobody from the basic crew. Suprised that I didn’t get a heart attack, and stayed cool.
How much of it was actually shot on the streets of Tallinn? Was it difficult to shoot there?
Tallinn old town is perfect location, but it is extremely hard to film there. You are not allowed to put even a nail into the walls without special permission. But we had explosions and shooting and also wide street shot. It means that we were suppose to clean all the streets from modern signs and other stuff. People who live close to our locations were not happy because we had noisy battle scenes during the nights. Poor them.
What is known about the actual Gen. Põdder?
Gen. Põdder is our hero. he was really beloved by the fighter of independence war. Very colorful person.
Why add the fictional characters of Anna and Tanel? Do you think the audience should know how much of the story is fictional and how much is real?
Anna and Tanel were important to show the everyday life. And some kind of love story also. It is very hard to say in some points what is real. Historians have different positions, People wo wrote about it have also different stories about the same event. So it is hard to say where is the reality until it’s not documentary. It’s a philosophical question.
What’s next for you?
Money First. A con comedy from early nineties. Jaak Kilmi will direct. Funny film.