Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pohjanmaa / Plainlands

En dag i Österbotten. FI 1988. PC: National-Filmi Oy. P: Marko Röhr. D: Pekka Parikka. SC: Antti Tuuri, Parikka - based on the novel (1982) by Antti Tuuri. DP: Kari Sohlberg - 1,66:1 - colour. M: Antti Hytti. Trad. songs: "Enkä minä hurjan luontoni tähden", "Pilttuussa pienessä seisovi tamma, kauan on ollut orhitta". AD: Pertti Hilkamo. Cost: Tuula Hilkamo. Makeup: Eija-Leena Lehmuskallio. Hair: Seija Haanpää. ED: Keijo Virtanen. S: Paul Jyrälä, Johan Hake, Antero Honkanen. C: Taneli Mäkelä (Erkki Hakala), Esko Salminen (Veikko Hakala), Esko Nikkari (Paavo Hakala), Vesa Mäkelä (Seppo Hakala), Kirsti Ortola (mother), Alli Häjänen (isumummu / grandmother), Tarja Keinänen (Laina), Rea Mauranen (Helena), Miitta Sorvali (Riitta), Heikki Paavilainen (Markku), Konsta Mäkelä (Antero), Mikko Kouki (Raimo), Sari Mällinen (Taina), Eeva Eloranta (Saara), Kalevi Kahra (teacher), Antero Sulkanen (nimismies / police chief), Paavo Pentikäinen (Ketola), Raili Tiensuu (Maija Ketola), Vesa Vierikko (police officer Matero), Kalevi Haapoja (police officer Lammi), Ritva Vepsä (nurse), Kari Sorvali (doctor). Loc: Kauhava. Helsinki premiere: 26.2.1988 Bristol 1, Arena 1, released by: Finnkino - 3530 m / 128 min. A KAVA print without subtitles viewed in Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Pohjanmaa), 15 August 2012.

Pohjanmaa is one of the key movies in the Finnish cinema. It was the first theatrical movie directed by the television veteran Pekka Parikka. It was the first movie based on a novel by Antti Tuuri (there are five Antti Tuuri movies by now, all interesting). It is a strong drama.

Pohjanmaa is a contemporary story. The family has gathered on a sunny summer Sunday in harvest time to the family house in Kauhava to settle the paltry heritage of the grandfather who has died in America. Veikko Hakala (Esko Salminen) has lost his fortune in a textile company affair to Ketola (Paavo Pentikäinen). A deep frustration is brewing. Erkki Hakala (Taneli Mäkelä) finds the submachine gun (a legendary Suomi-konepistooli = Suomi KP/-31) of their grandfather hidden in the weapons cache campaign of 1944 in the field behind the barn. The police is soon aware that there is something going on as Veikko breaks speed limits on his way to Ketola to rough him up (kurmoottaa). Wrestling and weight-lifting are among the hobbies on the yard. There are four brothers, including Paavo Hakala (Esko Nikkari) and Seppo Hakala (Vesa Mäkelä). They pick up several bottles of clear hard liquor and a canister of terrible-tasting moonshine liquor (pirtu) to spend the afternoon swimming and drinking at the beach of a nearby gravel pit. Meanwhile, three sons of the youngest generation drive up to Ketola to finish what was interrupted by Veikko. They forcibly transport Ketola, force him to drink hard liquor and start to manhandle him but Ketola produces a knife and slashes Markku. (This procedure of forcible transportation and violence, called muilutus, is in imitation of the vigilantes of the extreme right, the Lapuanliike in the 1930s.) At the gravel pit, Erkki produces the grandfather's submachine gun, and the brothers start to shoot both in single shots and in rapid fire. Veikko proves an even more terrible marksman than he is as a businessman. The old teacher (Kalevi Kahra) soon joins them, and the shooting exercises continue at his summer sauna by Lake Lappajärvi. Soon both the four brothers (Veikko, Erkki, Paavo, Seppo) and the sons of their younger generation are in jail - except Markku who is fighting for his life at the emergency room of the Seinäjoki General Hospital. One of his eyes has already been amputated. Veikko breaks loose, "gimme the machine gun and I'll kill everybody", but he dies of a heart attack before anything even worse happens.

Pohjanmaa is the story of the fall of a certain tradition of the family, the fall of violence and braggadocio.

In this role the women's role is to try to endure. The demented grandmother (Alli Häjänen) asks to be read the Bible. The mother (Kirsti Ortola) is the only one who goes to the Sunday service at the church, and she finds words of wisdom in religious texts: "You must dress into another person and transform completely into another". "In Pohjanmaa the wisdom is in old women, and in men there is madness" is the most famous catchphrase of Pohjanmaa the novel and the movie. The Hakala brothers are a disappointment to their mothers, wifes and daughters. Erkki is not married but he is kindling his schooltime affair with Saara. "There is nothing in there for you" says Saara when Erkki lifts her skirt. "Of that I'm grateful that I did not get hitched with you. What would I be now", she says to him. The women are so disillusioned that they have stopped crying. "Luuletko että tässä maailmassa vielä itkua piisaa" ("Do you think there is room for more crying in this world"). "There is nothing reasonable or unreasonable in this world. It has always been the hardest way", confesses the mother. Her husband has died, not in the war, but afterwards, and her sons have grown up semi-fatherless.

Although the story is grim and tragic there is a strong sense of a life force, something irresistible that will survive when the madness has settled.

The strengths of the movie include a strong script and great performances by the actors. Esko Salminen has never looked physically more strong in a movie, yet his character is the one who falls. Even in supporting roles there is great work, including Vesa Vierikko as the young, over-enthusiastic police officer who has no clue how to handle Pohjanmaa men. In contrast, Aarno Sulkanen projects silent authority. Taneli Mäkelä gets to portray the most complex character, who is only seemingly thinking and acting soberly but in fact is the catalyst to evil, the fates of both Markku and Veikko. Yet he is also an incredibly good diplomat, too, in the way he handles the surprise encounter with Saara's madly jealous husband (Hannu Virolainen) and perhaps saves the lives of all the parties of the triangle. Erkki also has a clever way to avoid telling the truth to the police. It is impossible to figure out Erkki.

Visually the movie can boast great helicopter shots and impressive crane shots. The dialogue scenes are often handled in routine television style. Pekka Parikka was not a master of visual elegance. In the vintage print viewed the colour was still fine, and there were signs of wear in the tails and heads of the reels, but the most unfortunate characteristic was the somewhat duped quality of the image.

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