29 November 2017 | RealLeo
Building A Worker's Paradise gone horribly wrong
Ikitie (The Eternal Road) is a morbid film of a man's attempts to get back home, set against the backdrop of the untold story about 10,000 people who voluntarily moved from North America to the Soviet Union to build a worker's paradise, but who eventually learned the true face of Stalin's U.S.S.R.
It is 1931, and the Great Depression is on. Jussi Ketola has recently moved back to Finland from the United States with his family. He has bought a farm, and tends pretty much to himself. All is good and well until right wing extremists, who claim Jussi to be a communist, decide to practice their favourite pastime, namely kidnapping Jussi, driving him a few hundred kilometers to the Soviet border zone, then shooting him (though it might sound odd, these things actually happened in Finland during that tumultuous time). Except that they botch the shooting part and Jussi, heavily wounded, barely escapes across the border to the U.S.S.R.
When Jussi wakes up in a hospital in the Soviet Union, he is greeted by a Finnish police working for the Soviets who, instead of letting Jussi go home, summarily accuse him of being a spy. Unable to escape, Jussi is sent out to a collective farm. This kolkhoz has been built by Americans and Canadians, but mostly by Finnish immigrants who had first moved to North America, but then moved to the U.S.S.R. Their common goal is to build A Worker's Paradise. Jussi's task, on the other hand, is to inform on any suspicious activity. And it is here where the story really begins.
Ikitie tells its disturbing story at a laid-back pace. It is not boring by any means, but the scenes, particularly during the first half of the film, are given plenty time to breath. The same goes for the actors. They have both the space and time to act with nuances. Helped by this, acting flows naturally. People speak their native or common languages (Finnish, English, Russian) with appropriate dialects. Cinematography is lovely, particularly when playing with darkness of the night without crushing everything to black. Colours are perhaps ever-so-slightly muted but still realistic, and - thankfully - there are no teal-and-orange scenes to be seen.
As time goes by in the film, tension slowly but surely rises, right until the dramatic ending. Adding to the tension and pain is the knowledge that things that we see in Ikitie actually did take place on a large scale in Stalin's U.S.S.R. during the purges of the 1930's.
What can I say? I saw Ikitie today at our local theater with my mother and son, and it left us discussing for hours, about local and international history, the Great Depression, the Finnish right-wing extremist movement, Stalin's purges, all of it. If that is not a sign of an exceptionally impressive film, I don't know what is.
Judgment: Highly recommended, just don't expect a light-hearted comedy!