4 April 2014 | Vartiainen
Love, music, the Cold War
Set in Finland in the early 60s, August Fools (Mieletön elokuu) tells the tale of lovers torn apart in the upheavals of World War Two. Jan (Miroslav Etzler), a Czech jazz musician loved a Finnish woman, but forced to separate from her when his country closed borders and prevented him from contacting her again. Meanwhile Elsa (Kati Outinen) has lived her life believing that she had been abandoned. But now a music festival is coming to Helsinki and with it a chance for reunification.
The best thing about August Fools is its value as a period piece. 1960s Helsinki comes into life beautifully in the silver screen. The locations, the costuming, the make-up, the music, the feel of it all. It also handles and examines subjects that were relevant at the time. The Cold War, the difficulties of living in a Soviet state (by which I mean Czech Republic, not Finland), the peculiar function of Finland as something of a border nation between the East and the West. The film is not afraid of poking fun at the politics and oddities of the time. And while some of it might seem naive or just plain shortsighted, depending on your personal take on the issues, it's never malicious or mean-spirited.
The acting is also quite lovely. Outinen and Etzler shine as the main couple, while Elena Leeve and Krystof Hádek provide a younger perspective on the same dilemmas of love, commitment and the threat of loss.
August Fools is a great movie if you're a fan of period dramas and/or music. Its tone is certainly very lighthearted and there is a risk its optimistic world view might rub you the wrong way, but I'd give it a chance. It means well while depicting a rather dark time in world's history.