Saturday, December 05, 2009

Täällä Pohjantähden alla (2009) / Under the North Star

Här under Polstjärnan. FI (c) 2009 Artista Film. P+D+SC: Timo Koivusalo - based on the two first novels (1959, 1960) in the trilogy by Väinö Linna. DP: Pertti Mutanen - scope - digital intermediate. M: Jaakko Kuusisto. "The Akseli And Elina Wedding Waltz" by Heikki Aaltoila. AD: Markku Myllymäki. COST: Leila Jäntti. Make-up and hair: Erja Mikkola. S: Jyrki Luukko, Olli Pärnänen. ED: Jyrki Luukko, Timo Koivusalo. CAST: Ilkka Koivula (Akseli Koskela), Vera Kiiskinen (Elina Koskela), Risto Tuorila (Jussi Koskela), Ritva Jalonen (Alma Koskela), Mikko Nousiainen (Aku Koskela), Tuukka Huttunen (Aleksi Koskela), Mikael Salonen (Akseli Koskela as a boy), Hannu-Pekka Björkman (vicar Salpakari), Jonna Järnefelt (Ellen Salpakari), Antti Luusuaniemi (Ilmari Salpakari), Heikki Nousiainen (tailor Halme), Seela Sella (Emma Halme), Esko Roine (Otto Kivivuori), Sara Paavolainen (Anna Kivivuori), Tapani Kalliomäki (Janne Kivivuori), Niko Saarela (Osku Kivivuori), Tomi Salmela (Anttoo Laurila), Eija Vilpas (Aliina Laurila), Elena Leeve (Elma Laurila), Tom Petäjä (Antti Laurila), Risto Korhonen (Uuno Laurila), Arttu Kapulainen (Arvi Laurila), Juhani Niemelä (Töyry), Leena Suomu (the Mistress of Töyry), Janne Hyytiäinen (Arvo Töyry), Sulevi Peltola (Preeti Leppänen), Tuula Väänänen (Henna Leppänen), Kari Ketonen (Valenti Leppänen), Miia Selin (Aune Leppänen), Göran Schauman (the baron), Eija Nousiainen (the baroness), Oiva Lohtander (Mellola), Juhani Laitala (the master of Yllö), Turkka Mastomäki (Uolevi Yllö), Tapio Liinoja (Ylöstalo), Raimo Grönberg (Hellberg), Jukka Leisti (Elias), Risto Salmi (Vikki Kivioja), Pekka Huotari (Lauri Kivioja), Matti Mäntylä (teacher), Pekka Valkeejärvi (the sheriff), Hannu Kivioja (the storekeeper), Kalevi Haapoja (the old vicar), Kristiina Elstelä (the midwife Priita). 193 min. Released by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Finland. Viewed in Bio Bristol, Helsinki, 4 Dec 2009 (day of premiere).

A film print with an obvious digital intermediate look: the colour definition is a bit shabby.

Väinö Linna's historical novel is seminal in Finland as literature and as coming to terms with 70 of the most dramatic years of Finnish history. Importantly, Linna's epic was an act of reconciliation in the 1960s of the White and the Red interpretations of history. The awakening of the national spirit in the 1880s, the working people's fight for justice, the Finnish independence, the Civil War with its atrocities, and the bloody retribution of the Whites are among the themes of the first two volumes covered in this film. The novel is enormously popular, as is the first film adaptation by Edvin Laine (1968, 1970), and there have been many theatre adaptations, as well.

Among my first positive impressions of Koivusalo's film are:

1. I never glanced my watch during the 193 minutes of the film.
2. The film is well edited. There is a full command of the rhythm and the vitality of the epic flow.
3. The visual composition is effective, and to watch the big scope image on the Bio Bristol screen from my favourite first row of the balcony was impressive. Koivusalo and the DP Pertti Mutanen meet the visual challenge of epic cinema.
4. The film is never boring, yet it does not descend to cheap tricks.
5. Daringly, Koivusalo casts Ilkka Koivula with his anti-heroic looks as Akseli Koskela. Koivula is certainly credible as a vigorous settler.
6. The film is well cast, a display of many of Finland's talented contemporary actors.
7. I feel that there is more emphasis on the female roles than in Linna's novel and Laine's film. Vera Kiiskinen, Ritva Jalonen, Sara Paavolainen, et al. are very good.
8. The most poignant is Elena Leeve in her role of Elma Laurila.
9. Heikki Nousiainen carries his central role as tailor Halme splendidly and with conviction.
10. Hannu-Pekka Björkman creates an original interpretation as vicar Salpakari. The contrast of Halme and Salpakari as the central spiritual forces of the epic is well realized.
11. The film faces the terrible themes boldly yet with sophistication. There is no easy way out.
12. An industry insider friend predicted after an industry preview that the film will be a big hit and people will cry. I did not cry during the screening, but I cried the day after, reminiscing the Elma Laurila story.
13. Three days after seeing the film I like it more because of its strong message of fighting for justice.

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