Friday, December 28, 2012

Metsän tarina / [The Saga of the Forest]

Sagan om skogen / Tale of a Forest. FI © 2012 MRP Matila Röhr Productions. P: Marko Röhr. D: Ville Suhonen, Kim Saarniluoto. DP: Hannu Siitonen, Mikko Pöllänen, Teemu Liakka - helicopter shots: Helican Services - additional spring footage: Antti Mikkola - the cuckoo on the tree top: Mauri Koski. Post-production: Generator Post. DCP mastering: Mihkel Mäemets. VFX: Tuomo Hintikka. SC: Ville Suhonen. M: Panu Aaltio. S: Juha Hakanen. Sound studio: Kalevala Studio. ED: Kim Saarniluoto. Narrators: Turkka Mastomäki (father), Christian Ruotanen (son). 76 min. Released by Nordisk Film [I don't remember that there were Swedish subtitles in this screening]. 2K DCP viewed at Tennispalatsi 6, Helsinki, 28 Dec 2012 (day of premiere).

Dedicated to the memory of Pekka Suhonen (1938-2011).

Starring: the bear, the elk, the viper, the owls, the ants, the frogs, the flying squirrel, the Siberian jay, the black woodpecker, the hawks, the lynx, the fox, the European badger, the mouse. I think I saw also the wolverine, the wood grouse (Western capercaillie), the long-tailed duck, the common goldeneye, common wasps, butterflies, the common cuckoo, the viviparous lizard, the slow worm, the European pine marten, the goldcrest, and the long-tailed tit. The grown-up lynx was photographed at Kiteen Eläinpuisto / Kitee Zoo.

Excerpted from the production information: "In a central role are also the trees which are hundreds of years old. Primeval forest is still an awesome experience. In ancient days Finns worshipped forest gods and believed in forest spirits. Assigned by MRP Matila Röhr Productions the nature photographers Hannu Siitonen (Parikkala) and Mikko Pöllänen (Simpele) started a collaboration which resulted in this documentary film. They spent four years preparing the film and of their material 20 hours of pre-edited film were compiled. From this huge source the editor Kim Saarniluoto honed the final movie of 75 minutes. The screenplay was written by Ville Suhonen, and Ville Suhonen and Kim Saarniluoto were the co-directors. The Saga of the Forest is the third documentary film by Hannu Siitonen and Mikko Pöllänen, and the most magnificent of them. One could call it their lifework."

This is a wonderful documentary about the Finnish primeval forest which hardly exists anymore in reality but to which we still have access via tradition and certain national parks. This movie has permanent value because of its many precious sequences, because it covers the four seasons, and because it is an overall review of the inhabitants of the forest. Side by side with the factual documentation there is the mythical dimension conveyed in the narration with references to ancient legends and the pantheistic imagination of great authors. The makers are top experts with a long experience.

The score is fascinating.

The film starts well, and yet some of the most rare and wonderful sequences are at the end: the chick of the goldcrest for the first time alone outside the nest, the long-tailed tit with its ten chicks, the lynx cubs at play, the owl before the time of the autumn colours. - The footage on the bears and the elks is majestic. - The sequence with the ten badgers must have been incredibly difficult to shoot. - Among the wonders are also the shots of the flying squirrels. - I know there are great nature shows every day on television, and I have lost touch of the genre since I don't watch tv. - The Saga of the Forest is the first Finnish theatrical nature documentary feature in 50 years, yet there have been substantial documentary elements in several fiction films by Markku Lehmuskallio (The Raven's Dance) and Raimo O. Niemi (The Boy and the Lynx).

The cinematography is great by its virtues of capturing so many extremely difficult shots of shy animals that we hardly ever get to see live in the forest - and also thanks to a great sense of composition, including in long shots.

The visual quality: compilation quality from different formats, including apparently also video. Occasionally the colour has been sweetened too much in the digital post-production.

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