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Isältä pojalle

A very disturbing study of fathers and sons.
In "Isältä pojalle", Visa Koiso-Kanttila has taken a very personal perspective in fatherhood. A fresh father himself, he tries to rebuild his relationship to his own father. This documentary shows us four generations of men and the burden of the masculine gender role they all move to their own sons. Visa, as a part of the "active" generation of today, the one who is raising his own children at the very moment, is trying to change things by discussing the most difficult subjects.

The basic idea of the film is to question the tradition of masculinity. In Finland, the generation born after the latest world war is the first one not to have experienced any war. But are the children still brought up as potential soldiers? The point Koiso-Kanttila is bringing up is the fact that he himself was taught not to show his emotions, and he was guided towards the traditional male role. He sees this as a reason to his personal inability to confront his father, and fears he will fail as a father by being unable to change the tradition.

All the way, the father is given a change to say his opinion, and factually response to the accusations set by his son. As the father sees the past in a completely different light, even denying some of his son's memories, the audience is left with nothing but doubt. The situation is utterly disturbing, and one might wonder if this actually is a documentary or not. On the other hand, Koiso-Kanttila uses some very nice tricks to increase the level of emotion. I especially liked the part in which his own figure can be seen in a mirror behind his father, who was being interviewed.

Whatever the case, the film reminds us of a very important characteristics of human life. The perspective of a child is very different from the one of an adult. We all have the tendency to remember things in our favor, that is for sure. But when it comes to children, it is not so important what actually happened, but what the child actually experienced. Therefore, even the truth of what objectively happened can be seen from the family album, the reality in the child's mind is the important one. It is not enough for parents to do things "right", if the child is not heard.

At some points, the film manages to show the problematic nature of the traditional masculinity when combined with modern fatherhood. The film doesn't try to be artistic, but merely just attempts to make the similarities between the men of different generations as obvious as possible. It works very well. The problem is, the director himself is very far from an average Finnish man, but merely a caricature. It makes the film interesting, but I'm afraid the extreme nature of his expression makes it very difficult for the fathers to accept the message. They should remember, though, that this documentary is not accusing them, but merely pointing at the mistakes their sons should avoid making. If they are not talked about, they can not be avoided.

But after all, I don't think most Finnish men get this traumatized just because authoritative father figures. The puberty might be difficult, but sometimes it's needed - one just has to find their own will and start living independently.

Altogether, the film is an interesting and extremely skilled study of masculinity. Unfortunately it fails to reach large audiences because of its extreme nature. Obviously there is much to expect from Koiso-Kanttila in the future anyway. I'll wait and see.

Tarpeettomia ihmisiä

Domestic violence - a male perspective.
*Some things in this review can be considered spoilers.

Having seen a few excellent movies directed by Matti Ijäs, I was really looking forward to see this one. The special trademarks of Ijäs are creating interesting, controversial male characters and making them read their witty lines with pretty much minimal facial expression. Another thing is combining serious issues with somewhat surreal personalities and incidents.

In this case the serious issue is domestic violence. The atmosphere is a bit darker comparing to other works by Ijäs. The first half an hour it looks like a comedy, but after that we get a realistic and grim look at the typical case of domestic violence. A man, loving his son, fails to respect his wife and other women around. The violence is about considering the other genre less valuable, and it can be seen in everything, starting from the language used. To an outsider then, everything is just "falling in the stairs" and other innocent little accidents. The victim actually adopts this role as the clumsy one, a role of the worthless. This is the kind of story this movie tells.

Then again, I already knew this one. It is not a very original approach, and I guess it might be worthwhile trying another one. Female domestic violence maybe? The positive thing is, the violence is shown from the perspective of the villain; we get to see the big picture of his motives. And as he doesn't seem to use much alcohol, the movie is free from that cliché, and therefore we get a deeper look to the actual problem field.

The funny side of the movie is focused on the figure of the neurotic school teacher who fails to play his role as the nice guy around. Despite of being pretty much the most annoying and spineless figure imaginable, he seems to get everything he wants. This storyline is not as interesting as the other one, but the value of it really comes from the comparison to the other one. The violent guy looks nice, the spineless guy is thought to be the responsible.

The women are not in the center of the movie, but the actresses do excellent work. They are exactly opposite to each other. One is a traditional submissive figure, the other one is willing to change things, even violently. They both fail in their purposes. On this side the story is depressive; the structures of the society can not be changed, but neither adapting to them helps. The movie presents the problems, but doesn't provide any answers.

Altogether, another interesting character study by Ijäs. Not knowing the original text, I'm unable to say whether the writer or the director should be praised for the realistic touch and the fascinating dialog, but it is quite a typical work for Ijäs.

The Small One

Fascinating, with a somewhat controversial ending.
I guess the outcome of a movie always depends on your expectations. Before seeing this one, I expected an emotional and innocent story told from a child's perspective. The first twenty minutes I was completely satisfied. It was a typical storyline for children; a child must face the realities of everyday life despite of their own needs. Only after that the Christian context was introduced. As I had no reason to expect such content, I was absolutely shocked. All I could think was why this nice little movie had to turn out to be Christian propaganda.

Now please do not judge me just yet, think it over again. In the movie, we see people of different occupation and even ethnic background. From the children's perspective most of these characters are presented either as evil or odd, caricatures from the adults' perspective. Even in the drawing style this can be seen, as those characters contributing to the Christian content are drawn more realistically. If this movie maybe can not be called racist, it is clearly propaganda. Now if you think I'm taking this too seriously, I would like to remind you that although this is not a serious movie, children are the group most vulnerable to this kind of non-subtle propaganda; we adults can see through it.

As an atheist I don't mind being introduced to different religions and religious habits. A little bit of religious touch does not hurt even mainstream movies; it is just realistic. However I find it strongly questionable to glorify one religion with this kind of historical fiction. It is an old trick used by political and religious leaders; make up fantastic stories of their own background, or even the background of their ideology. It just is dishonest, so stories with their roots in mythologies should either be realistic or either point out something important rarely noticed. But a made up story attempting to glorify the figures of Christianity... no good. Then again, the symbols and habits of religions are very deep in our culture, and therefore the attempts to create stories with no religious contexts are often doomed to fail. I do not demand that, I just demand fair play.

Well, it IS a good Christian children's propaganda movie and it WAS done almost thirty years ago. Apart from the ending, it is very fascinating for pretty much everyone. The songs are pretty good, even the Finnish translations I heard. Some scenes are slightly intimidating, so the smallest children should maybe not see it. (Although nothing bad really happens, the atmosphere might be frightening, as the crew of this movie really knew their jobs.) Personally I would only give this for my children to see when they are old enough to see through the method (or small enough not to recognize the intertext), as I would want them to get a realistic idea of different religions.

Zakochany aniol

Warm-hearted and entertaining, though somewhat amateurish.
*Might be some minor spoilers in this review.

An angel is given a man's life. Sounds like an idea that provides some innocent humor and a possibility to show some aspects of the human life we are too close to see. Even with a fantasy perspective like this, it is still not so easy to be original. I would even say, that if one makes a fantasy movie with superpowers, fairies or angels, it is always a disappointment if the film fails to show fresh ideas. In this case, the originality is, should I say, so-so.

I guess this movie is more of ordinary drama than fantasy. It is mostly universal in its thematics, but at least some jokes are rather Polish - even Adam Malysz is, though utterly popular in Poland and quite well-known in central and northern Europe, probably never heard of in the rest of the world. This is still a movie worth international distribution. On the other hand, most of the people willing to see rather low-budget flicks from eastern Europe prefer movies with liberal values, and in this one the happiness is found from conservative and somewhat selfish ways. It is obvious that a lot of things have changed in Poland and the rest of the eastern Europe recently. Looking at the movies produced there nowadays, they quite often seem to show the message that not so much has changed after all - corruption, evil politicians, prostitution and all the dirt is still there, just more for everyone to see. Some interesting perspectives have been shown on these subjects, but not in this case. This is a feel-good movie, and as it is, I should accept it, but as it only made me laugh a couple of times, I must admit I expected more. Social commentary is kept to the minimum, and I just wonder how an unemployed man can go for a quality shrink and a luxury prostitute. Well, never been to Poland myself, so I wouldn't really know, but as these scenes are only slightly amusing, they seem somewhat pointless.

Altogether, I wasn't at all bored watching this movie. There are no serious flaws, and the atmosphere is good. The amateurish nature mentioned in the summary is not really a problem, and it mainly applies to the script and partly to the cinematography. The script seems to have been produced combining two different plot lines, and it is not completely successful. Some important people just disappeared after an hour, and I would have wanted to see them again before the end.

The cinematography, when shooting in "heaven" obviously is only limited by imagination and certain religious principles one might have. I found the perspective in this movie somewhat boring and too closely related to our time and culture.

What more should I say? It was a decent experience, with a few amusing scenes, but I probably won't remember much after a month. Worth watching anyway, when there are limited possibilities to see something from Poland. From the recent Polish films that I have seen, I would still prefer "Tomorrow's Weather".


A significant movie.
*I'm afraid I can't avoid spoilers in this review.

I was rather surprised there were no comments posted on this movie. Not many people seem to have seen "Yoyo" nowadays. It is a pity, as I find it a significant one, working on many levels. The director, Pierre Étaix, obviously fancied circus as an art form, but he really kept the circus performances to the minimum in this movie. The movie concentrates on the things the life as a touring circus artist represents; Simple, but free way of living.

The movie shows us the development from silent movies to the television era. The first half an hour is silent apart from special sound effects. In my opinion, this is the best part of the movie. It makes fun of the life of the materially fortunate, and some of the scenes are absolutely hilarious, with a whole bunch of servants pretending to take their jobs seriously and their master pretending to enjoy his pointless life.

The second part of the movie is no longer silent. It concentrates on Yoyo, the son of the rich man of the first part. Yoyo has spent his childhood in a circus group. He unfortunately sees only the glamor of his father's life and ends up searching happiness from wealth and materia. In the third part, in the television era, we see Yoyo's disappointment to the conventional life of the upper class. The circle of life has been completed, as the son has repeated his father's mistakes and ended up in the situation his father was in at the start of the movie. The simple but emotional (sad) story and the development of movie as an art form, already form an interesting and meaningful entity. But there is more to this movie.

The pace of the movie is quite fast, but what really keep the spectator focused are the ubiquitous gags. Nothing really spectacular is seen, but the number and the good taste of the jokes create a warm and amusing atmosphere. Both sad and funny, both light and meaningful, "Yoyo" is a movie for everyone. I'd say the only real problem is the slight loss of integrity towards the end of the film. "Yoyo" definitely deserves more attention.


An indifferent story on an important subject.
Nobody outside Finland probably has the opportunity to see this film. That is nice. Sometimes, when there is no story to tell, one should stick to making a documentary on the subject of public interest. In this case, somebody obviously thought that even a lame story is better than just the facts.

The question of the Muslim community of Somalian origins in Finland is somewhat open. The Somali people have, of all the immigrants groups in Finland, most trouble finding their place in the society, with a high unemployment rate and a tendency to be separated from the majority, including other Muslim groups.

The movie introduces a young Somali woman, Caasha, trying to live her own life despite of the demands of the family. The story focuses on one of the most difficult subjects: meeting non-Muslim (Finnish) men. However, the perspective is really the one of the Finnish man. Karri is a security guard trying very hard to prove himself he is not prejudiced, nor racist. The character of Karri is the most interesting thing in the movie. He has trouble admitting himself having prejudices like we all do. He also seems to get pleasure from his attempts to show he is no ordinary man; a Muslim woman is a challenge for him, and maybe this is the reason why the character of Caasha is so annoyingly idealized. One could say she really has no character.

The Somalian community also seems strangely liberal. I wouldn't say there are no families like this, but this movie really has no guts to touch the real hot spots. Both the racism of the Finns and the strict social code of the Somalians are shown in an unrealistically positive light. There is more than just prejudices to Finnish racism, and there is more than traditional habits to the control of women in the Muslim community.

Therefore, the movie is one of those propaganda "Love thy neighbor" -like attempts to show that all people are nice and all you need is love and a few white lies. Quite pathetic indeed, and even worse, the actors really show their amateur-like nature, although the Somalians do just fine considering the circumstances. Poor Arttu Kapulainen is given some disgracefully dull lines, but he doesn't seem to have a clue anyway.

The movie just lacks creativity, political courage and a story. Then again, it is good to see someone is trying to work on this subject, and there is nothing really annoying in the movie - it is just unimportant.

Haaveiden kehä

Growing up under the command of a boxing coach.
"Haaveiden kehä" is a movie of an aging man, whose main interest in life has been bringing up his two sons after the death of their mother. As a fanatic boxing coach, the only way he knows is to make them "stand three rounds". Boxing is his whole life, and he believes it will keep his children on the bright side of life.

I watched this movie on DVD with English subtitles, as I was unable to turn them off. Slightly annoying (as I am Finnish), but also interesting in a way. I had a chance to compare the subtitles with the dialog. It was a major disappointment. In my opinion, the clever and creative dialog is the best part of the movie, and the most of it was lost in the translation process. I still don't blame anyone on that. It is probably impossible to do much better work, as the space is so limited in the subtitles, and the dialog so witty. The expressions used are in many occasions somewhat unrealistic. No ten-year-old speaks like Kosti in this movie. It doesn't really matter. The implementation of the boxing terminology to the real life works very well and gives good laughs for those understanding Finnish.

Sulevi Peltola is created for the role of a sad, grumpy old man. The acting altogether is kept in the minimum, a very Finnish choice, and one can't help making a comparison to Aki Kaurismäki. There are many differences, of course, in the style of dialog at least. The main difference still is in the depth of the story. Ijäs provides us a lot more interesting personalities, with their histories following them to every decision they make.

Altogether, the movie has a lot to offer, including a bit of a crime story also. Apparently the most important part still is the relationship between the two boys and their father, stuck to his principles. The number of characters might be a subject to criticism, as too much attention is paid to unimportant people. On the other hand, actors like Antti Litja just kind of have to be given space, however little difference their characters make.

Clearly this is a movie for men, as all the questions raised mostly apply to men only. Women spectators might also find it annoying to see how helpless the men seem to be, the women being the organizing force, the light to show the way. It is kind of an old idea for a movie. But still, it is worth watching. And if you are one of those people having been brought up by a father more interesting in your success in sports than your happiness, this movie is a must.


One perspective to the nature of war, universally.
This documentary goes through a few incidents in the history of war, including the destruction of the bridge of Mostar and the massacre of Srebrenica. The ways the people experience violence and the idea of hurting people reflect the similarity of the nature of different wars. The values people learn in the time of peace are different to those they are to respect in the war, suddenly hurting and killing is not only allowed, but encouraged and respected. This contradiction and the experiences in battle have the tendency to break the morale of the soldiers. This decadence is studied through the experiences of common people and soldiers; in situations in which the have to fight to respect humanity. Especially the experience in which the ability of a person to cause pain is studied is interesting.

Altogether, the documentary is bound to the scene clearly similar to the one from the book "All Quiet on the Western Front" (by Erich Maria Remarque), in which two soldiers of two armies lie in the same bomb hole, the other dying. The difference between an anonymous enemy soldier and a real human being, the thin line between a murder and a legalized murder in the name of war; those are the subjects studied. How is the line drawn, and why does it so often end up being drawn in such a strange way, that makes even children impersonalized enemies to be killed? Is it just because ordinary people don't resist enough? And if we knew the enemy, would it make a difference, as it made for the poor soldier in the Remarque's classic book? In Mostar, some people grief more for the beloved bridge than for the casualties. Maybe that is part of the answer.

This is a decent documentary on the subject. I must admit, though, that I did not understand the relevance of some scenes. The logic is sometimes slightly difficult to follow. But still, it is quality film making.


A product of one era?
Sujut was shown on Finnish TV just a few days ago, and before the movie, there was an interview of Eeva Litmanen, an actress having played the role of the female lead actress of the movie. It was one of the early roles for Litmanen, and it is natural that she finds many things to criticize about the movie. However I found it very strange, when she called the movie naive. I find it very intentional.

Basically, this is a story of a man, who tries to set himself outside the society. Instead of escaping in the large forest and hiding from the police, he decides to make it clear that he is "even" with the state and has no obligations to the army. In the middle of the World War II, when the Finnish army was just about to collapse, this is something of a brave thing to do. Or is it? Obviously, not everybody finds it very brave. It is important to notice, that although Ojala has a reason to leave the army, being left on the enemy's side and shot at by own troops, he merely uses it as an excuse. It is impossible to believe that a man originally described as a good, responsible soldier loyal to his country would suddenly completely change his mind just because of a couple of incompetent fellow soldiers. No, this movie has more to offer.

It is obvious that the Vietnam war had an effect on the movie. Many, especially leftist, people made the war an issue. In the movie, the war is between the communist Soviet Union and Finland, supported by Nazi Germany. And the hero of the movie decides to run away from the Finnish army... It is clear that the movie is somewhat propaganda.

On the other hand, a larger perspective can be taken. The movie does not have to be seen as a product of the 70's leftist movement. The history has shown us that maybe the most dangerous situations are created, when nobody dares to disagree. And for Ojala, it doesn't seem to be the most important thing to place himself outside the society, but to show it. He is ready to pay the price and is not afraid of shame or prison. Maybe he is no hero in the war, but he sure shows some braveness that could have prevented the war from starting.

Basically I admit the movie is quite political, but I can't help personally enjoying it as art. I don't have much to complain.

Helmikuun manifesti

Old propaganda movies are always funny.
Historical background briefly: Finland was a province of Russia until 1917. Although the declaration of independence was given in December 1917, the process started much earlier. One breakpoint was the "February manifest" set by Nikolai II, the czar of Russia in 1899. With the manifest, the czar tried to take away most of the privileges Finland had had under the Russian command; the official language was to be Russian etc. This started a wave of protest, including the murder of general-governor Bobrikov, the representative of the czar in Finland, in 1904. Finally it was Vladimir Lenin who allowed Finland to become independent, but unfortunately this started a civil war, as the socialists wanted a more fundamental change in the society, but could not take over the northern parts of the country.

The movie itself covers a time period of over 100 year, trying to describe the whole process from the common people's point of view. It shows us few real incidents combined together by the main characters lives. All the people are very patriotic... to the extent of fanaticism.

Unfortunately the movie is pure propaganda, and from a more modern perspective, very bad propaganda. It really hurts seeing relatively skilled actors behaving like a bunch of brainwashed idiots. The national romantic era was long over in literature, but in this case, it doesn't seem to be over in the movies. National anthem and the most famous marches playing most of the time. The kid keeping a piece of paper, mentioning the independence day, on his heart. And altogether the over-dramatic way the people speak out loud their decisions to sacrifice everything for the fatherland... it would make me feel physically sick, if it wasn't over sixty years ago when this movie was made. Maybe the most annoying thing is the completely biased image given of the civil war. On the other hand, this is the perspective of the upper class.

Good actors can't save a piece of trash. Of course, the movie is interesting from the historical point of view, because less than a year after the release of the film, Soviet Union attacked Finland. Therefore it is interesting to see how the people of those days saw the relationship between Finns and Russians. On the other hand, it is easy to laugh to old propaganda films as well as to old science fiction. But I still grade movies as pieces of art, and this movie is very bad even in the context of propaganda.

The last border - viimeisellä rajalla

Better than Mad Max for sure.
'The last border' may not be good science fiction. It reminds me of Mad Max, although the plot is different for sure. Not everything is completely logical, but I must bring up a few points. The movie was filmed somewhere in northern Scandinavia, and obviously they didn't do much to change the way the vegetation looks like. To be a post-apocalypse world, it looks slightly too "normal". On the other hand, if there was no vegetation, there would be no people either. So I would say the landscape does indeed look as realistic as it can. I just wonder what the people eat, as most of the reindeer seem to be gone.

On the previous comment there was a question raised about clothing. The pretty dress seen in the movie is a traditional Lappish costume - the kind of dress you might very well find from those regions, even after an environmental disaster. So most of the things match, although obviously this movie was made when people still believed the oil is going to last forever. So eager are the biker boys to waste fuel driving around with no purpose.

Anyway, the movie itself is slightly boring. The idea of a solitaire man seeking for revenge has been used many times. I would say that Kaurismäki intentionally recycles some of the basic ideas of classic westerns. On the other hand, there are clearly characters and scenes that seem to be very similar to those in Mad Max. (Althogh I can't make a difference between the three.) It is not a bad idea. The only problem is, there is not enough to happen. Most of the characters just hang around pointlessly. Some of them do have potential, but nothing really comes out of it. Kari Väänänen at least is really enjoying himself, and Matti Pellonpää has a few funny lines.

What I really like about this movie is the image it gives of an ultimate macho culture. The biker boys look childish and ridiculous, like a bunch of school kids playing war on the backyard. They don't look tough but just stupid, just like real-life low-forehead -type of crooks.

It is a bad movie in a way, but on the other hand... I somehow like it more than average science fiction. Maybe it is just because the landscapes are familiar.

Strong Hold

The thin line between irony and stupidity.
Little Tom is not one of the popular kids. Actually, I remember the situation from my own childhood. Oh, those childish winter boots I had, what a pain it was, like the whole yard had been full of laughing kids. But when I got the new jeans, I felt like a superstar for a day or two.

Honestly, this is a nice little movie making fun of children's need to be cool. Just on some moments the film seems to borrow too many ideas from mindless American teen movies. Some of the exaggerations are clever, but some just annoying. Apparently this makes the movie good; you catch the spirit when you hear others laugh, although you are not 100 per cent sure on why they are having so much fun.

Unfortunately this movie has no great message. It is a parody of children's world, in which we might find something of our own. I only have trouble appreciating this because getting bullied really hurts. This film might give perspective, but solutions is what it lacks. Let the "cool" kids see it. For the others, find something more intellectual.

Jerusalem, min elskede

In the center of religions, one might lose their faith.
You might say that to really understand the three monotheist religions so strongly affecting the life in Europe, one should go to Jerusalem and see where the ideals and the myths were born... or created. In 'Jerusalem, min elskede', we see one man having done that. Having got to know the modern-day "prophets" of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, looking after the souls of Jerusalem, he should have something to say about the nature of these three religions so closely connected.

It is obvious that a documentary like this is a challenging task. In this case, the director chose to take a very strong personal touch. We get to see the "prophets" through the eyes of a man full of doubt, but a willing to do good. This is probably a good choice... if the director only had thought things over. In this case, the movie is nothing but a nice try. The direction is too much of a mess. Fortunately it leaves the main question, the one over the existence of God, unanswered, which of course suits me. Everyone can make their own interpretations.

On the other side, it gives us many glimpses on the religious men helping the poor and misfortunate, but fails to see the other side. We are given hints of violence and madness having connections to religion, but the director seems to consider them a minor detail, which is strange, because Jerusalem is not only the capital of religions, but also the capital of religious wars of today. Then again, the war of religious groups is what we always get to see from Jerusalem, so someone might forgive the attempt to fade the violent side. Not me, or at least not completely. What this movie really lacks is a portrait of an extreme right-wing Jude - an extreme islamist is shortly shown.

I did not get at all bored with this film, but it didn't give me much either. The main problem might be my own atheism, which makes me demand a more cultural-based perspective on religions. I hope more movies like this will be made, as I might find my own among them. But for those in doubt of their beliefs and ideals, this might be a good choice. It brings up many important questions of religion and tries to provide you something to answer them with.

Kivi ja kilpi

Funny people in an antique bookstore.
This is one of my favorite TV-series of all time. I must admit it has many flaws. Part of it looks like a cheap soap opera, with the evil stepmother of course. Another part looks like a very cheap detective story. So why do I find this funny?

The series really is not so much about the world of books, but the antique bookstore is still an original choice for a business examined in a TV-series. On the other hand, the series is based on an idea by Antti Tuuri, a well respected Finnish author, and one could say he knows his subject. The antique bookstore is not very realistic, with four workers in a one-man business, but the atmosphere is what I like. The eccentric customers never buying anything, the socially incapable book specialist Holsti (Oiva Lohtander) unable to manage anywhere outside the bookstore, and the dusty old store with all walls covered with funny-smelling books... When you add loads of references to famous and not so famous books and authors, what you get is a mess, but a funny one for people who just love hanging around in antique bookstores.

Lohtander is great. He plays his basic role as a funny, harmless old man with respect to bibliophiles. He does not make his character look like a miserable person, just as a man who knows his business and takes care of it with love. Together with the salesman Wallenius (Taneli Mäkelä) they make a good pair. Although the script does not include very deep considerations of the contradiction between the financial and the humane value of literature, one can see it through the different personalities of the salesman and the bibliophile.

The main plot line is the hunt for treasure. In both parts of the series, the bookstore must be saved from bankrupt by getting an old, expensive book/script (by any means) before the other (evil) bookstore manager does. This is not a very realistic representation of the everyday life in an antique bookstore, but a possible one anyway. Althoug it has all the elements for a decent detective storyline, it just doesn't seem to work very well. A few gaps, yes, that is one problem, but the lack of excitement is the main one. Therefore, the best part of the series is the funny literature dialogue.

All the actors know their jobs, although not all of them have roles of any interest. I would really have liked a little bit less of soap opera, as now there are a couple of useless characters, like the wife and daughter of Wallenius, who really don't give much to the story. But on the other hand, this way one doesn't have to be a literature snob to watch it. A bit light altogether, but if you watch a TV-series, this is not one of the worst.

Modré z nebe

Life of a woman explained
I believe this film is trying to present all the phases of the life of a woman. In the movie the phases are represented by three women of different age. The elderly lady spends most of her time with her memories. The active part of life is already behind and now she is only trying to enjoy the nostalgia and help the young to cope with their problems. She understands that the end of her life is getting close and wants to ignore even the truth, if it is to make her unhappy. There is just no reason to worry. The old lady represents the phase of accepting life as it is.

Her daughter is 50 years old and trying to take care of the everyday life. Responsebilities are a burden for her, but she is not yet ready to let go. She represents the disappointment, some kind of a mid-life crisis, in which one looks back and sees the mistakes, not yet quite understanding that it's too late to fix them. Therefore she has the bad habit of trying to guide her daughter's life instead of her own.

The youngest of the women is in her twenties. She is in a phase in which everything seems possible and moral regulations are not of great interest. Looking at her mother, she doesn't want to worry yet. Instead, she finds comfort in her grandmother's nostalgia.

In their own ways these three women living together also meet the men in their lives. The oldest admires them, the middle-aged is suspicious and the youngest just wants some adventure. The men are really seen from the female point of view, and it is hard to find a positive male character from the film.

Behind all this there is pregnancy. The line of women is to be continued, and this ultimate purpose of female life is shown us with some funny symbolic scenes. (The girl eating the small fish in a glass, the ubiquitous white stork.) Everything the women does not serve this purpose, the continuation of life, and these false steps are also shown us on symbolic level. (The white stork putting of the light, the egg in the snowstorm.) Altogether. Nice and somewhat naturalistic. Beautiful even, but I can understand if not everybody likes this idea of the purpose of the female life so strongly represented in this movie. This socio-biologist view seems a bit vulgar sometimes. And in the end, the film really has nothing much to say. On the other hand, it is quite funny in a warm-hearted way, even touching at some points. So I give it 7/10 not because it has an interesting message but because it is good work altogether.


Maybe this was controversial in the 1960s...
Paavo Rintala is one of the important figures in the "book wars" of Finland. Together with Hannu Salama, he managed to test the limits of the freedom of speech, and maybe also pushed the limit a bit further. When Rintala's book on the Finnish guerrilla troops in the WW2 was released, 34 retired generals protested against the publication. Also names were collected to boycott the publishing company. Attention was payed to the sexual content, but sexuality itself was of course not the reason for the rage against the book. The problem was, Rintala did not describe Finnish soldiers as highly moral, decent men, but as ordinary people losing control under the pressure. Also he described the women, working for the Lotta Svärd group (an association of volunteered women working for the army)as, good lord, sexual beings. This was very strongly against the heroic myth of military honor. And, obviously, quite realistic.

The realism might have been the reason for all the opposition faced by the movie also. Although the film praises the skills of this special force group, it also reveals the nowadays well-known fact that most, if not all, soldiers are morally corrupted by the war. The difference between the public image and the reality is very well shown in the movie.

There are two time lines in the movie. One is a post-war meeting of the survivors, being very modest in their respect for the memory of the deceased. The other time line shows us the reality of the war, with no heroes but mainly ordinary men fighting the moral battles of the war. This is a very good choice, as it emphasizes the difference between the reality and the heroic image.

This IS a war movie, though. We are shown three different operations conducted by the group. The further the movie goes, the more the brutality and degeneration of the soldiers is shown, by the means of nervous breakdown, moral corruption, excessive boozing and irresponsible behavior. The special force is also a bit of an exception exception when it comes to military discipline; as lieutenant Hakala says it "Everything is allowed for us but shooting our own." The limit between the enemy and the own, though, is not so clear sometimes.

This war movie is a quite good attempt to raise some questions of the human morale. It is also an action-filled war movie, with some limitations of resources, though. Mikko Niskanen was really a director who did dare to raise uneasy questions. This movie is important, as it questions the so-well-protected myth of Finnish soldier. But in 2005, the movie is no longer so controversial. For example, it seems obvious that many of the women working on the front had casual sex with the soldiers. So what? Everybody knew it anyway. But I think it still has to be shown, as even many of the nowadays' movies of the war can only be described as propaganda. For example, "Rukajärven tie (1999)"; in which Finnish soldiers' sexuality is described as a beautiful, romantic act between the young volunteer and her fiancée, and the sexuality of the enemy as rape. Of course one can tell a story like that, but it has no real value in the most important message a war movie can provide: In the war there is nothing to honor or celebrate.

Tulitikkuja lainaamassa

A quality adaptation of the classic book
"Tulitikkuja lainaamassa" (Borrowing matches), for at least most Finns, is more widely known as a book by Maiju Lassila than as a movie. First I must note that Algot Untola, mentioned in the writing credits, indeed is the real name of Lassila. The book is one of the most beloved Finnish classics, although nowadays kids probably don't read it too often. It is a description of peaceful countryside life of the early 20th century, disturbed by a series of funny coincidences and misunderstandings. Although the book is best described as a farce, it still has some documentary value also, making fun of the differences between the slow backward life of the farmers and the "city" lifestyle, where city means a group of houses and a couple of streets. It all starts when farmer Ihalainen must visit his neighbors to borrow some matches...

Having read the book a couple of years ago, I was interested in this movie version, but afraid of whether it could keep the spirit of the book. I could not. I was satisfied though, because although the movie is quite loyal to the plot, it managed to make the necessary adaptation to keep things going. Great part of the humor in the book is based on very slowly evolving scenes, where people just can't get to the point, and that does not look good on the screen, when there is only just about 90 minutes to spare. Therefore I must congratulate the director, although the movie looks quite different from the book.

This is a real feel-good -movie. There are no evil characters, as they are not needed. Ordinary people can mess their lives without the help of any villains. You are not going to die of laughter, but it does not matter. Personally I prefer this to most of the average 21st century comedies, as they are so desperately trying to make you laugh. In the end the feeling is being ashamed, either for the actors or the characters, depending of the quality of the film. But in this case, they had a good script to base the movie on. I wish they made more movies like Full Monty nowadays.

I must, though, admit that the quality of the actors is not all excellent. Some of the performances are quite amateur-like, which is of course typical for a movie of this age. On the other hand, the movie has some of the best Finnish actors of the time. Especially I like Siiri Angerkoski, but all the main characters are played with good spirit, to give them interesting personalities.


Days of "disgrace" in the HQ
As this is a historical movie, spoilers can not completely be avoided.

In June 1944, just before the D-day, marshal Mannerheim, the commander of the Finnish army, is to celebrate his 77th birthday. But the Soviet Union wants to spoil the party. Now I must admit I'm no historian. To me it seems the dates don't exactly match, so I would say that even this movie is obviously supposed to give a realistic image of what the situation and atmosphere was in the Finnish headquarters on those bloody days, the story itself is slightly fictional. The original novel was written by Ilmari Turja, a journalist who did have access to the HQ, so we can assume this movie has something important to tell.

C.G.E Mannerheim is a national hero in Finland. In the civil war 1918, he was commanding the white army, with his great experience gained serving in the cavalry of the czar of Russia. It might seem kind of strange that a man who lead the Finnish army when Finland was an ally of the Nazi Germany is considered a hero, but one must remember that in Finland most of the people think that Finland was not fighting for Germany, but against Soviet Union. Whatever you think of that idea, the truth is, Soviet Union attacked Finland in November 1939, and Germany and Finland became allies only after the Soviet Union had invaded part of Finland in that Winter War.

Therefore this movie can be considered important, because it shows marshal Mannerheim in quite a different light. Mannerheim is old, tired, stubborn and not even very well aware of what is happening in the war. General Airo has many times been described as a real leader of the army, and this movie is based on that idea. The smart and strong-willed general sees the dark clouds over the future of Finland and takes the initiative over his commanders will - successfully. The movie is at some points trying to show the battle between these two men, but it also has other plot lines. In my opinion the relationship of Airo and Mannerheim is still the most important element.

Jussi Jurkka is excellent as Airo, and Joel Rinne at least looks like Mannerheim. In general, the movie works decently, but Jurkka really is the one to draw the most attention. On the weak side are the not-so-original characters of drunken privates with no respect to the officers. The movie is as its best, when it is seen through the political atmosphere of Finland in 1970.

Säädyllinen murhenäytelmä

The life of people who have too much time & money and too little freedom.
This movie has a somewhat strange atmosphere. Maybe it's the language or the type of families. Prosperous, highly educated people who try to look happier than they are. Finns can't avoid noticing the perfectly articulated language that makes the characters look somehow desperate. Sticking to the strict social code of the upper class, the people seem to be unable to really communicate.

The style of the movie is slightly melodramatic. It is actually quite rare to see a Finnish movie showing the life of 1930's from an upper class point of view. Although the movie concentrates on the love-hate relationships of two couples, including an old mother not willing to let her son live his own life with his wife. Passion is the key element. Passion between people who are not allowed to show it. I guess my mother would be familiar with these kind of issues, watching all those films based on Jane Austen's books.

This movie is partly based on reality. The book was a scandal in its time, as people couldn't help recognizing some of the characters. The story of this movie itself is supposed to be fictional anyway. How realistic it is, I can not say, but I was fascinated with it. I think the movie very well shows the effects of sexual energy hidden behind social code and the disasters caused by its bursts. All basic human emotions, like jealousy, are strictly kept inside, and at the time of revenge, you can see the bitter-sweetness of the situation.

Sounds like typical romantic trash? It is not, although the movie takes advantage of the clichés of the genre. The emotions created are strong but controversial, and personally I was surprised how much I liked the feeling. There is also something quite original in the movie.

But still, I can't quite see the point. Interesting, but somehow pointless. And very skilled indeed.


A nice, warm-hearted movie of one man's music
Rauli "Badding" Somerjoki (1948-1987) is obviously of no importance internationally, but for Finns he is one of the most beloved rock/pop musicians of all time. As so many other celebrated musicians, he lived a slightly controversial life. Alcohol, depression and lack of self-esteem practically destroyed the last years of his career.

In the Finnish films industry the trend of the first years of the new millennium has been making movies of national heroes, like Jean Sibelius. Most of them are of mediocre quality, really providing nothing new on the subject. There are two exceptions, "Aleksis Kiven elämä" and Badding. I'm saying this because I think movies like these should provide something more than a documentary. These two films do.

This film tells one story of Badding. It is not even trying to stick to reality. Many of the things happening in the movie never actually happened in any form. Does it really matter? Badding was a musician, his importance is in his music, not his life. As the movie includes many of his best songs, the movie must really follow the way of the music, not reality. Maybe some of the people who actually knew Badding might feel that this kind of method is dishonest, but I can't see that as a problem, as long as the movie doesn't have some disrespectful purposes, like some political issues etc. But here Badding is presented as a musician, an ordinary but talented man, and nothing else.

So Markku Pölönen took some of Baddings's music and his personality, an actor that looks ridiculously lot like Badding and made up a nice, warm-hearted story around this. It is not a great masterpiece of art, but it works. The audience is kept satisfied by playing some Badding classics, it doesn't need anything spectacular.

And the story is not that bad either. I admit it is not that original, but I still think it is realistic in a way. I like the spirit, one just has to remember that this is just entertainment. 7/10

M.A. Numminen Turns Rabbit - The Universal Declaration of the Rights of the Rabbits

Hilarious - but for Finns only
To understand this movie... or actually more like a music video, one should know a little bit of its background. M.A. Numminen is a very famous musician in Finland. He is mostly known for many kinds of experimental projects, but children know him better for his rabbit character. Most of his children's songs are humorous and smart, and so is this one also. In this adaptation of his old songs, rabbits ask for their natural rabbits' rights.

The film takes place in a major tourist attraction in northern Finland, the Kemi snow castle. It is indeed a good place to start the revolution of rabbits. Men make castles of rock, rabbits are happier with the snow castle. White little fluffies are well protected from their enemies by the snow. One should also not forget that Numminen used to be a very political figure, although I would like to see this film as entertainment. Make your own interpretations.

Overall, the film is of good quality. Claess Olsson as a director is a professional with a lot of experience. This movie is also part of a series of M.A. Numminen -videos directed by Olsson, and I can see their cooperation works very well. I must admit, though, that this is kind of an insider joke.

Watching this film I was smiling all the time. As it is pure enjoyment, I must give it a full 10. I probably shouldn't be writing a serious review of the film, but I can't help it, as this is one of my favourites.

Mosku - lajinsa viimeinen

A film of the legend of Mosku
Aleksi Hihnavaara aka. Mosku is a legendary character in the Finnish history. I remember hearing stories of him in my early childhood, and I guess that has happened to many people having grown up in northern Finland. Most of the stories are probably just made up, as people just want to hear legends, true or not.

There are as many versions of the story as there are people to tell it. Mosku's wife, children, friends, enemies... everybody has had one perspective. Some facts can be verified, of course: Mosku was a reindeer ranger of excellence. In the early 20th century the northeastern part of Finland was no peaceful place. Mosku was often accused of reindeer theft, a crime to be compared to horse theft in the westerns. He was also known to catch (and kill) some thieves himself.

Somehow this movie reminds me of westerns. A quiet, tough and solitaire man, who shoots as often as talks. Wandering through the great forests hunting his enemies with ultimate survival skills. A man who just can't stay home with his wife and children.

Kai Lehtinen actually plays the role of Mosku pretty much like Clint Eastwood would have done it. He is a decent actor, but can not completely save the movie, although I think he does great work. The problem with the movie is that it is trying to tell the whole lifetime story of the man. We see a little bit of this and that, but no real drama is ever created. Who would have cared if they had used a little bit more of imagination, as most of the legend is just gossip anyway? The lack of a story also destroys the ending of the movie, although it indeed is made up - in reality, Mosku died peacefully, of natural causes. Anyway, this is more like a portrait of the man, not a story of him.

Unfortunately it also annoys me that Mosku is presented as a fair and decent man. Like the "good" guy in the westerns, he shoots a few men once in a while, but is a righteous man... fundamentally. As most of the people having known him don't agree with the image, it seems like they wanted to tell a heroic tale. This might be a good choice considering the sales, but it makes me dislike the atmosphere of the movie. This is not the Mosku I heard stories about.

Apart from everything mentioned, "Mosku - lajinsa viimeinen" is quality work. A little bit of excitement, some nice landscapes and mostly good acting. Kind of a western in Finnish style, just lacking a story. This could have been an important movie historically, so it is a shame they had to screw things up. 5/10

Jumalan morsian

Movie of people who don't know what a movie is.
In short, the movie tells a story of girl chosen to be the bride of god. Nothing much really happens, so I better not tell more, as just about anything would count as a spoiler.

Nenets people are still living on the Russian tundra, eating reindeer's and living in movable camps. They don't have much interaction with western civilization, and therefore one must not watch this movie as we watch our everyday movies and TV-shows. These people have barely heard of a movie, and their way of telling stories is completely different to ours. Honestly; As a movie of western standards, this would be quiet boring and mediocre in acting and directing.

It helped a lot to hear Markku Lehmuskallio, a researcher of the Nenets to tell about the everyday life and traditions of the culture. One really has to try to see the movie in their perspective to get something out of it. One must remember that the actors are real nenets people. They have not seen the development of movie expression that has created the modern standards during the last decades, it is completely new for them to act for a camera. Therefore I must say that the directors have done pretty good work.

I must admit I had some trouble concentrating on the movie... and I was in the premier. It goes veeery slowly. Afterwards I felt to have learned something important though. "Jumalan morsian" is an interesting journey in a world completely different, and gives us a glimpse of the Nenets lifestyle, religion and culture altogether. The movie can really not be graded, but I compromise to 7/10.

Pessi ja Illusia

An interesting piece of Finnish movie history
As anyone reading this comment will most likely be Finnish, I assumable have no need to check the accuracy of my expressions. You should know that Pessi is a kind of a goblin and Illusia a fairy, and this movie tells a touching story of their lives. If you are not Finnish, you should be told that the book the movie is based on is one of the most popular children's classics ever written in Finnish. Written during the World War II, by a soldier on the front, it is also part of Finnish history.

When I went to see this movie on a children's festival, I was surprised to see there were no children in the audience. And only a few adults also. And part of them even left after about half an hour. I was expecting much more popularity, as the more recent (1984) version of the movie is presented on the Finnish television every year. One could expect that people would be interested to see this old (1954) version too. The secret is, this movie is a ballet version.

Now it is obvious that the quality of ballet dancers was not very high in the post-war Finland. Such "high" culture was something a poor country could not properly afford, nor did it find it interesting. However, this movie is a serious attempt to make a serious "high" art movie. It is probably inspired by the success of the actual ballet. Pessi ja Illusia was the first real Finnish ballet, and very successful in Scandinavian scale. But as far as I can see, this movie does not have the same crew. All this also means that the movie does not follow the book very accurately, it is merely just inspired by the book.

I must admit that some parts of the movie are boring. I have never seen a real ballet, but I can assume the experience is completely different compared to this. Some of the scenes here are way too long and do not work on screen.

But still, it was an amusing experience indeed. I expected something totally different, though, so I found the first minutes hilarious. I can't recommend this to anyone used to a lot of action, so children can be count out. But it's a great drama anyway, and of surprisingly good quality.

Danslärarens återkomst

Under the shadow of Kurt Wallander
Having read some of Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander -books, I was relatively interested to see this film of the book without Wallander. After seeing this mini-series, I don't feel like commenting Mankell's performance without reeding the original book. Apparently it must have been hard for him to get over the famous figure, and I must honestly say, that although the story itself is of decent quality, I was slightly disappointed to see how the realistic touch of the Wallander-books has been lost here.

In short, the series is about a young policeman investigating the death of his old friend and colleague on his own, without the support of the local police. As so often in Swedish crime stories, conspiracies and international connections are to be expected. The story itself lacks realism, but not in a disturbing way, unless you really hate conspiracy theories. It is always funny, for a Finn, to see the Swedes's willingness to be in the middle of international politics. Fortunately this one doesn't go that far.

The main problem is the thinness of the main character, Lindman. It is a very lame performance compared to Kurt Wallander, so well played by Rolf Lassgård. In this case, Jonas Karlsson playing Lindman does not seem to have much of a clue, apart from looking good. On the other hand, the rest of the crew do way better.

In short, brutal violence does not cover up for thrill, and neither a bunch of cops create a crime story. Watching this one feels like sitting in a train; you always know which way the story is going, and can only enjoy the good view. A few points for the entertainment and Mankell's wild imagination though. And maybe another one for the well presented atmosphere of the forest-surrounded backward village. 5/10

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