Sunday, September 11, 2011

Herra Lahtinen lähtee lipettiin / [Mr. Lahtinen Takes a French Leave]

Bättre fly än illa fläkta. FI 1939. PC: Eloseppo. P: Erik Blomberg. D: Nyrki Tapiovaara. SC: Ralf Parland, Nyrki Tapiovaara - based on the play Melodien der blev væk (DK 1935) by Kjeld Abel. DP: Olavi Gunnari. AD: Ilmari Tapiovaara, Tapio Tapiovaara. Makeup: Senja Soitso. M: George de Godzinsky. S: Evan Englund, Lauri Pulkkila. ED: Erik Blomberg, Olavi Gunnari, Nyrki Tapiovaara. Cast: Fritz-Hugo Backman (Mr. Lahtinen), Märta Laurent (= Märtha Jaatinen) (Edit Lahtinen), Hertta Leistén (mother-in-law), Lauri Korpela (Kaarlo), Liisa Nevalainen (second Ms. Salminen), Rosi Rinne (first Ms. Salminen), Antti Halonen (Lord Roqueford), Henake Schubak (street singer). Originally 77 min. Surviving footage 43 min, partly without sound. Viewed in Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Nyrki Tapiovaara Centenary), 11 September 2011.

Introduced by the film director Juho Kuosmanen.

Inspired by Bertolt Brecht, René Clair, Frank Capra, and Le nozze di Figaro Nyrki Tapiovaara started to make a musical comedy with a social edge together with George de Godzinsky a bit like Fritz Lang was doing at the same time in Hollywood with Kurt Weill in his Lehrstück musical You and Me.

Most of the film was destroyed during the bombings of the WWII. What survives includes a wedding montage (telegrams, identical gifts, a vision of a honeymoon to Stockholm), a dream sequence inspired by Surrealism (Buñuel, Dali) complete with elastic clocks and "the ballast of civilization", a vision of Sunday boredom with always the same routine together with the parents-in-law, having a secret Schnapps in the kitchen, a visit to the Korkeasaari zoo where we realize that the human protagonists live in cages as well. But the frustrated young wife has had enough as his formerly virile husband is losing his joy of life. Watching a play in the theatre she exclaims "lies, lies, lies", and a chorus of wives joins her stating that their husband "is no longer a man anymore". The final surviving fragment takes place at the beach.

With stills it will be possible to reconstruct a more complete experience of Mr. Lahtinen. Miracles do happen, and perhaps there is even more actual footage in some unidentified parts of Finnish film collections.

This screening was also a memorial to Märta Laurent (1920-2011), a popular actress of the theatre, television, and radio, most famous for her work at the Swedish Theatre of Helsinki. This year at the Thalia gala she received a life award for her work of over 70 years. She appeared in only five films. The female lead in Mr. Lahtinen was her film debut role. Märta Laurent's first husband died in the Winter War soon after the production of Mr. Lahtinen.

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