The film is based on the story by the writer from Eastern Prussia, Ernst Wichert ( 1831 – 1902), Der Schaktarp. A costume psychological epic drama set on the Curonian Spit, mid 19th century.
The film focuses on the conflict between the Prussian manager of a fishing business Grünbaum and a widowed Lithuanian seaman Jurgaitis struggling against Grünbaum’s fishing rules. Due to an unlucky accident Jurgaitis is accused of murder and Grünbaum sends him to prison. The friend of Jurgaitis, Mykolas, takes care of his daughter Elzė. Elzė grows up. Deep passions flare up between her and the son of Mykolas. Mykolas’s wife Gryta opposes this. Having returned from prison Jurgaitis tries to gain his revenge from Grünbaum who is saved by Jurgaitis’s daughter. A story about vengeance, wrecked love, hatred and forgiveness.
The film was selected to participate in the official Panorama section of the Berlin International Film Festival 2000.
The German film historian Hans Joachim Schlegel wrote about Elze's Life:
“I would like to point out several moments, which seem to me important in the new film by Algimantas Puipa, Elze's Life. First of all, this film shows that Lithuanian cinema is very professional in all aspects: the work of the director, cameraman and actors. It is especially significant that the film tells about Lithuania, its historical roots, and not only elaborates on the history of Lithuanian and German relationships not only on the screen, but is the co-product of both countries. Moreover, it is very different from many Eastern-Western co-productions that often lack the director’s address, that are filled with general images and imprecise as well as unrealistic characters. Elze's Life shows very clearly how Lithuanian cinema separates from its Soviet past; it explains that Lithuanian culture is related to the Northern European, even Scandinavian culture. I particularly support this tendency, because I see how lively it is”. (Almanach Kinas, No.4 (275))
The best director, the best director of photography – KINOSHOK, Anapa. Russia, 2000.