Two spoilt city kids who live their lives online are sent to the countryside to stay with grandma whilst their parents go on holiday. Lost without the tech they are usually glued to, and at a loss for entertainment, they are put to work by grandma, taking on the daily chores that are usually hers alone.
The kids, unsurprisingly, are both bored and horrified by the necessity of her lifestyle. When grandma tells them a bedtime story, of the folkloric Kratt who does all your work for you, the children decide to discover for themselves how to build one, in order to give grandma a break. Also unsurprisingly, things go very wrong, putting everyone’s lives in danger.
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Kratt is a modern day take on an Estonian folktale, and whilst its protagonists are children, this currently unrated dark fantasy-comedy is not a child-friendly film, containing elements of gory horror as well as adult language. It can be difficult to judge foreign-language films if one has not been sufficiently immersed in the output of a particular country, but it seems that Kratt deliberately evokes an odd, slightly off-kilter feel, both in its design and its filming choices.
Coming in at a little under two hours long, it takes a while to get going, setting up the various characters and situations that will be required to eventually bring the story to its conclusion. There are the kids, their parents, grandma, the weird twins, the burnt out governor, the hippies, and more. In fact, it takes an entire hour before we actually get to the Kratt itself, and whilst it’s inevitable that some subtleties will have been lost in translation, there were scenes that ultimately felt redundant, and could have been pared down or cut altogether.
However, the slow pacing and rather loose structure does largely serve the comedy, which is rooted in nods and winks to contrast and hypocrisy, as well as the occasional more earthy or bloody punchline. Kratt has a lot to convey about the balance between too much work or not enough; the dangers and similarities of magic and technology; corruption, sin, belief and forbidden knowledge; the inability to engender change; and the state of kids today. If there is an overall moral to this story, I’m not entirely sure what it is, but it does have – mostly – a happy ending.
There are three things that it might be helpful to know before you watch. Firstly, that a Kratt is a magical slave creature, created out of hay or random objects, and brought to life in a deal with the devil that involves the creator handing over some of their own blood. Secondly, that the word ‘Kratt’ has recently become used in Estonia to refer to Artificial Intelligence. And thirdly, that the English language subtitles on this version are somewhat frustrating, yellow on an often light background, making them needlessly hard to follow.
Overall, this is a fun little film that could have been tighter and tidier, but still comes through with some good ideas and memorable scenes.