Põrgu Jaan / The Riddle of Jaan Niemand

“Põrgu Jaan”/”The Riddle of Jaan Niemand” is one of the winners of the Estonia 100 film competition.

Somewhere in Estonia at the beginning of the 18th century. After ten years of war, plague and famine, the land is swept clean of people. The few remaining souls are scattered about, living in misery and lacking hope. An anxious silence hangs over the land.

On one particularly starry night, two peasants find a stranger on the seashore. He’s disheveled and comatose. They take him to the local manor lord and slowly bring him back to consciousness. When he opens his eyes, he realizes that he can’t remember who he is or how he got there. He’s just as much a stranger to himself as to the people around him. By force of circumstance, he must stay at the manor and live as one of them.

His preliminary state of lethargy slowly gives way to recovery. He must come to terms with the question: Who am I? He finds himself in a bizarre world, one full of meager uncertainty and growing disorder. There are sparse hints at his past… but what do you do when there is more than one correct answer to a question? What do you do when the answers aren’t good enough? Can we choose who we are? He embarks upon a journey of self-discovery with the most unlikely of landscapes as the backdrop.

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”


“The Riddle of Jaan Niemand” is a pseudo-historical riddle, a cinematographic journey. It isn’t a grandiose costume drama, but a kammerspiel mystery; a mystical trip to the peripheries of history and the subconscious. It’s the story of Jaan who first lost, then found himself. Again and again.

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