Illustration: Anastasija Keiša

Best Books and Films of 2014 0

The Year 2014 in Review

You already know which exhibitions and events created the most memorable impressions of 2014, but which were the year’s greatest books and films? Ever since November, the staff of has been on a mission to find out the opinions of a number of creative intellectuals hailing from the Baltic States, Scandinavia and Russia. Now we can finally reveal all of our findings.

Art collector Alain Servais (Belgium)

Best book: ”Capital in the XXIst Century”, by Thomas Piketty.

Best film: “Snowpiercer”, by Joon-ho Bong, and “Grand Budapest Hotel”, by Wes Anderson.

Mia Sundberg, curator at Spritmuseum in Stockholm

Best book: Two beautiful new books were “Dardel” (Langenskiöld förlag), and “Gunnel Wåhlstrand” (Art & Theory).

Dmitry Bulatov, curator (Russia)

This year was the most disappointing year for me in terms of films. Except David Fincher’s “Gone Girl” and the first half of Lars von Trier’s “Nymphomaniac”, I haven’t actually watched anything. However I compensated on a major scale with films about Doctor Faustus, as there seems to be an enormous amount of them. I arranged an astounding cinematographic journey on the theme of making a deal with the devil. I started with classical interpretations by Murnau and Burton, then moved to the analysis of the theme through the works of De Palma, Szabó and Švankmajer, and finally watched the beautifully prohibitive creations of Mario Salieri and Srdjan Spasojevic. In other words, I allowed myself to feel the tearing of lost souls in disputes of controlling entities. As for literature, except art, curatorial and media books, I familiarized myself with Russian writer Faddey Bulgarin’s creation “Plausible Fantasies or A Journey in the 29th century” (1824). This is one of the first Russian literary works in which a description of how to measure the appearance of novelty is given with the background of everyday automatism. Plus in order to understand the radical technological imagination of our days, I am also reading Michael Kurtov’s “Towards the Theology of Code” and a gift given to me by the artist Dmitry Morozov, the book by Scott French “HIGH-TECH HARASSMENT”.

Olga Temnikova, Temnikova & Kasela Gallery (Estonia)

My best book – do not laugh, but this is really the best book I've held in my hands – is Merike Estna's artist book “Blue Lagoon/ Pattern Book”, which was published along with her KUMU exhibition catalog. It is eye and pre-press candy; it lifts my spirits the moment I lay my hands on it.

Best film – Jaan Toomik's latest, “Landscape with Many Moons”.

Read in Archives: Best Book and Film of 2013?

Lithuanian graphic designer Povilas Utovka

This year's most memorable film and book were “Under the Skin”, directed by Jonathan Glazer, and “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage”, by Haruki Murakami.

Lithuanian artist Deimantas Narkevicius

Best book: As the region is fractured with so many languages, it is not easy to follow along with what is happening in the field of literature. As it concerns Lithuania, this year's outstanding event of publishing is a compilation of selected writings by Grigorijus Kanovičius, a writer living in Israel; his novels reflect on the dramatic history of Lithuania from the end of 18th century to the present.

Best film: The program initiated by the National Cinema Centre to digitalize the Lithuanian films of the 60's and 70's, and by involving the same cameraman into the process. It is going to give us the opportunity to watch those films in a better visual density, and in even better quality than at the time that they were made. I am sure it will be an overwhelming experience.

Milena Orlova, editor-in-chief of The Art Newspaper Russia

I can recommend books that were published for exhibitions, such as two volumes for the exhibition “Reconstruction”, dedicated to the 1990s and to the most prominent Russian galleries. Then there was a book about the artist Yuri Sobolev, which for the first time collected material about this bold artist that influenced many spheres, from printmaking to theatre. Another notable book was the exhibition catalogue of Russian performance art in the “Garage”, where materials from a hundred years were categorized for the first time. I can’t say anything about films this year.

Gard Andreas Frantzsen, Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art (Norway)

Best film: I have chosen Anna Odell’s film of 2013, “Återträffen”, which I didn’t get to see until this year.  

Best book: My favorite book of the year (that I’ve read so far) is “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage”, by Haruki Murakami.

Estonian artist Jaanika Peerna

Best film: “Boyhood”, for sure.

Best book: Books? I really enjoyed rereading Tõnu Õnnepalu's collection of poems,  “Kevad ja Suvi ja”, again and again.

Director of the KAUNAS PHOTO festival Mindaugas Kavaliauskas (Lithuania)

Best film: The documentary film “Master and Tatyana”, by Giedrė Žickytė, about the dramatic life story of photographer Vitas Luckus and his muse, Tatyana. This beats “Finding Vivian Maier”!

Estonian artist  Raul Keller

Best film: Although it's not from 2014, my best film is Alex van Warmerdam's “Borgman”, which I saw early this year (it is from last year). It is very involving, dark, and somehow, eerily relevant. 

Best book: Very rarely is there a book that coincides with my current interests and is relevant here and now in its immediacy. Come to think of it, my recent acquisitions in fiction always have to familiarize themselves with my collection first. Then, later on, I read them when it's their turn. So I have some waiting to do there. In the meantime, I have read some classic science-fiction and history books.

Lithuanian artist Robertas Narkus

Best book: “The Island of Dr.Moreu”, by H.G.Wells.

Best film: “House of Cards”. 

Stefan Andersson, Galleri Andersson/Sandström (Zviedrija)

Best book: “Stoner”, by John Williams, published in Swedish in 2014.

Best film: “Ida”, by Pawel Pawlikowski.

Signe Birkova, film director (Latvija)

This year's brightest cinematic event for me, which did come out before 2014, however, was Aleksei German's “Hard to Be a God”. I don't read fiction. The book that brought me joy this year was “Austin Osman Spare. The Life and Legend of London's Lost Artist”, by Phil Baker.

Jānis Taurens, philosopher (Latvia)

I don't think one can describe a film as “the best” because various awards, starting with the Oscars, have degraded this descriptor with their commercialization. I haven't had the chance to see the latest “best films”, since I haven't even had the chance to see the previous best films (without quotation marks). I did, however, see one film in an almost empty cinema – Signe Baumane's film, “Rocks in My Pocket”, which is worth mentioning for both its subject matter and its design, even independently of the overall context. Undeniably, the year's best book will be a new edition of an already-published work, or its translation (Fortleben, as Benjamins would say). An important place in Latvian culture, on purely quantitative grounds, could be taken by the fourth book (published as the first) in the series “Latvian Art History”; a critical analysis of the text will, hopefully, follow in the coming year. This publication is also important in that it indirectly points out the nonexistence of a new encyclopedia written in the Latvian language, something which in itself makes one doubt the independence of Latvia (at least in a spiritual sense).