|Peter von Bagh, summer 1951|
The premiere in the presence of Peter von Bagh, Jouko Aaltonen, Arto Kaivanto, Petteri Evilampi, Martti Turunen, Anna Korhonen - Simo Näyhä, Tapio Piirainen, Marianne Mäkelä - Kaisu Mikkola (Merikoskikerho / Uuden Oulun juhlavuosi), Sauli Pesonen (OEK), and Mikko Ronkainen (Kaleva).
In his introduction Peter von Bagh remarked that in matters of culture and film culture a small city like Oulu can be one of the centers of the world.
From the production information: "A time journey by the director, film historian, and writer Peter von Bagh to the home town of his childhood and youth, the Oulu of the 1950s. The extended essay-like film utilizes various archival materials: film, photographs, paintings, and other artworks. The movie paints a caleidoscopic vision about the Northern city and its spirit. One youth, one age, and one city spring magically to life. The film is personal and local, yet general and universal." (My translation).
A word from the director: "The film we have in our hands is a story unfolding from very personal threads - I arrived at Oulu at the age of five in the year 1948, and I left the city after finishing my school in 1961. It is one of the most exciting and dynamic periods in the history of independent Finland, not least, if you try to track down its clues based on the memories of a child and a youngster." (My translation).
Peter von Bagh is at his best in his first directly autobiographical movie, but even Muisteja is predominantly a work of cultural history. The private is mediated via culture.
Points of reference might be: Terence Davies: Of Time and the City, and Víctor Erice: La Morte Rouge.
Muisteja is a montage film based on some newly shot footage of Oulu (only places and locations have been photographed - there are no interviews), on archival footage from professional films, both fiction and non-fiction (newsreels), on 8 mm home movie footage, on photographs, and many paintings.
The soundtrack is a montage, too. The commentary is written by Peter von Bagh. The score is based on samples from Leevi Madetoja and vintage popular music. But there is also a montage of excerpts from prominent writers. Oulu has been an important city of writers since the 19th century, and several are quoted here.
From his rich sources Bagh creates a mosaic where the private keeps intertwining with the general, and those two keep illuminating and enriching each other. That is what Bagh has been doing since the early 1970s, but Muisteja is special because it returns to the most confidential ground, to the sources and origins of the artist.
The film is rich and will deserve multiple viewings.
There was a feeling of warm concentration in this very special screening which was also a class reunion. Oulu's Finnkino Plaza 1 was full, and there was a standing ovation afterwards.
Even rougher notes: - Vilho Lampi - ♪ Olavi Virta - Matti Hälli - Kiiltokuva = glansbillede = Glanzbild = small gleaming images popular with little girls in Germany, Denmark, and Finland since the 19th century - they were collected in books of mementos - "muisteja" (= remembrances, mementos) is the word used in Oulu for "kiiltokuvat" - the teeming swarms of children - Oulu's population doubled from the late 1940s to the early 1960s - the Oulu Lyceum - my home - the streets in the 1950s - the harbour city, the seafarers' city - now a center of technology - Jussi Hartoma - Paavo Leinonen - Matti Hälli - the kansakoulu = the elementary school of the age, in 1950 - the menu included the dread rössypottu, a regional specialty with potatoes and blood pudding - the paradise - at 7 I saw, together with my school, my first movie: Scott of the Antarctic - the snow, the cold, everybody perished - the courage to be a man - the turning-point movie: The Man Between: the divided Berlin - the first movie I saw twice - footage of ruins with German signs: not Berlin but Oulu in 1944 - Oulu was in ruins after five heavy bombings by the Soviet air force - powerful photographs - Oulu was an important point of supplies to the northern divisions of Hitler's Wehrmacht - the war was more present in the streets of Oulu than in Helsinki - the school class photographs always seemed to take place in front of memorial plaques of war victims - the names of those who died on the front - the Oulu garrison - the lyceum yard in 1939 - Oulu had the biggest garrison of Finland - there were more casualties than in any other city of Finland - the little Berlin: 4000 German soldiers - transferred from Capri to Oulu - there was a barrack next door where I lived - now there is but the military band - barracks disappear - Raksila - clip from: Pojat / The Boys (Mikko Niskanen), Raksila - these 'hoods I know - now in Raksila there is the second biggest supermarket in Finland - the painter von Wright - Rapp 1918 - Eeli Aalto - the church designed by Carl Ludvig Engel appears in every newsreel about Oulu - the light of Oulu - Uuno Laukka: photographs shot from the tower of the church - covering almost 360° - Tatu Vaaskivi on the city of light planned by Engel - rippikoulu = the confirmation school in the Finnish Lutheran tradition - rippikoulu was in the annex of the church - ♪ "aamulla kävin rippikoulussa", "in the morning I went to the confirmation school" - Tyttölyseo [Lyceum for Girls], "Tipala": the obscure objects of desire - later I learned that our home was a valuable building of Functionalism - designed by Knut Gustav Strandberg, also born in St. Petersburg - my father Konrad von Bagh [10 Feb 1908 St. Petersburg - 1982] was since 1949 the senior physician of the Oulu Central Psychiatric Hospital - a very public figure known under nicknimes such as "Pompakki", "Vompakki", and "Pakki" - also well-known by his scathing remarks (at least four were quoted, but too quickly for me to take notes) - sometimes the path went directly from the garrison to the mental hospital - I remember a patient who told that he does not want to get out of the mental hospital to normal life since he does not want to start to pretend - in 1949 my mother died - this was my last summer - there was a Chekhovian atmosphere - my grandmother had given concerts in the old St. Petersburg - soundbite: Kalle Kustaa Korkki, a radio detective series in episodes of five minutes - at lunchtime it was possible to listen to it - the broken windows - Martti Silvennoinen - pictures reading Tarzan, with a dog, swimming - ♪ Olavi Virta: "Portugalin huhtikuu" / "Coimbra" - 33° - Nallikari, the legendary beach - the summers of childhood - the long sand beach was for my parents and grandparents the new Terijoki - my father was 8 years when he escaped from the Red St. Petersburg on a bicycle in 1917 - my personal running track - the gooseberry and the currant bushes are no longer there - a new phenomenon moved into the neighbourhood - a company formerly known for its rubber boots [Nokia] - now it, too has moved - spaces get vacated - only the mental hospital remains - ♪ Elvis Presley: "Love Me Tender" - V. A. Koskenniemi: "Koulutie" ["The School Road"]: "olen unessa useasti" ["often in my dreams"] - the pictures of our teachers still on the wall - the gestures, the looks, the voices - all marked by the war - to protect us from getting the horror inside us - the ethos was strong - everything was measured in money - there was the concept that one survivor is worth a thousand - pullakahvit = coffee and buns, the Finnish institution - teachers: Oskari Inkala, Aino Thauvon, Pauli Antoila (the most important - the love to the Finnish language), Kalervo Pekkala, Kuuno Honkonen (the gymnastics teacher whose last words always were: "you were all great"), Helinä (my guide to the arts), Atte Miettinen, Mikko Salminen (the Swedish teacher who launched the Oulu Film Society), Lahja Järvinen (religion) - the schoolmates included Väinö Kirstinä, and Martti Ahtisaari [one of the three presidents who have studied at that school] - some teachers were only five years older than us - no longer there are Oulu institutions such as Åström, merisatama, Toppila - Oulu Oy > Stora Enso - Expo 1953 - yacht club: the powers-that-be - ♪ Olavi Virta: "Liisa ihmemaassa" ["Alice in Wonderland" the Disney theme song with Finnish lyrics by Kyllikki Solanterä, superior to later translations, and better than the original] - colour footage of the Oulu historical pageant - there were always parades - Q: Matti Hälli - Q: Anu Kaipainen - Q: Väinö Kirstinä - there are many great writers who have written about Oulu, and their sentences are gloomy - the cinema opened the world, the past, the secrets of the soul - Raimo Ahonen - Kino, until 1979 - Rio Bravo, Le Journal d'un curé de campagne I saw five times in a week - the difference between the high and the low became meaningless - a matchbox image collection of movie posters - happiness - Rio is the only cinema that was built in the 1950s, and it still survives - Hovi, Kiistola, Kino, Kino-Aula, Tähti, and Kuohu had been built in the 1930s - Kuohu is the only one of them which survives, now called Star - in the movies we visited Africa, Florida, Saigon - and the outer space - I'll always remember the sound of the little child in the audience: "are they in heaven now?" - Raymond Durgnat about the unlived life, the magic mirror, the shadow identities, the unfulfilled loves - moments of excitement at a poster featuring Françoise Arnoul in La Rage au corps, with words cryptic for us about "the problem of the insatiable woman" - East of Eden with James Dean - in our school we had a James Dean lookalike - the latter professor of astrology, Dr. Kari Lumme - the privilege, the century of significant images - the fire of 1955 - one of the ten big fires in Oulu - the vandalism of arson - Eeli Aalto - the ships ceased to arrive - even the sea disappeared - behind the new buildings - the square - where I bought every day Baltic herrings for our spaniel - Q: Paavo Rintala - Paavo Tolonen - Kirkkokatu, a part of which has now become Rotuaari - although it was a walking street even then - the young ones were little grown-ups - that was the period when youth for the first time started to become identified as a group of its own - ajan sävel, the sound of the epoch was rock'n'roll - in Kino Aula there were no riots like in Helsinki - the Finnish approach to rock'n'roll - ♪ Harmony Sisters: "Rock Around The Clock" [antithesis of rock'n'roll] - Isto Jakola - ♪ Brita Koivunen: "Suklaasydän" ["Chocolate Heart"] ("Mama's Pearls") - the beauty of 8 mm - a moped - Onnikka = the Oulu expression for a bus - "mikä on punainen päästä ja jatkuvasti seisoo" [untranslatable]: the Oulu bus featured in the poster of Muisteja - the street which was destined to become the Champs-Élysées of the North - and Ervi - Henry Theel settled in Oulu for a year, staying at the Hotel Arina, ♪ Henry Theel - Olavi Virta also lived in Oulu for a while and worked at the music shop still next to Bio Rio - I bought clarinet reeds from Olavi Virta - we had a new schoolmate who was a film star - excerpt: Pekka ja Pätkä puistotäteinä [Pekka and Pätkä as Playground Marms], ♪ Olavi Virta: "Orvon osa" ["The Orphan's Lot"]: Risto Jussila as the orphan helped by Pekka and Pätkä to find his father, played by Olavi Virta - at school they never mentioned if someone's parent was dead or an invalid - we learned to be silent about essential things - movies told about them - Hupisaaret - they planned a university campus to the park islands, essential for romance in Oulu - the islands were saved for recreation - The Ainola library - Matti Hälli - Paavo Rintala: "there is room for Europe there" - I discovered Gogol, Maupassant, Chekhov, Huovinen, Korpela - writers became travel companions - once on a train I sat confronting Jorma Korpela, not exchanging a word, but his presence was memorable - Veijo Meri arrived at a literary matinée, the first I visited, and I got my first signature in a book from him, in 1961, for Sujut - ♪ a waltz - the Oulu Lyceum Orchestra - I was there, as well - Martti Lappalainen later in Tapiola Big Band - the arts, the culture: the school helped - the hall of festivities of the school - Kipparikvartetti, the band, they were like big children, the first high quality theatrical performance I visited - Zarak, starring Anita Ekberg, formed our image of Sweden - the Boy Scouts: I was expelled on the second day - hobbies: music - hobbies: science clubs - hobbies: explorations to the nature - the theatre: the Tiernapojat / the Star Boys / Sternsinger: for years I got to play Mänkki / Melchior [the one of the Magi who carries no sword but instead carries the star, the light] - hobbies: ice bandy - Finland vs. the USSR: practicing peaceful coexistence - 1952: the voice of Pekka Tiilikainen - the Olympic spirit was still noble - when I was 16 Kaleva published my first film review, on Läpiä päässä / A Hole in the Head  - the death of Stalin in 1953 - the patrons at Kaleva: Aaro Korkeakivi - Juho Raappana - Kansan Tahto, the political majority was to the left - the same company also published Nyyrikki and Perjantai [the essential escapist entertainment papers] - the number of local papers was astounding - Kolmiotalo was the site of those publications - Mukka, Päätalo, and Haanpää also contributed to the papers - Alko stores [state monopoly alcohol stores] were rare - Haanpää coined the word "pitkäripainen" ["the long-handled"] for Alko - Erno Paasilinna: "nowhere is liquor so much needed" - the news cameras caught Oulu events twice a week with items such as a wolf being caught, tervahiihdot [tar ski competition], the launching of an airline, and gigantic religious revival meetings, reportedly they might end with a film: "we conclude with a film from heaven" - Armi Kuusela, Miss Universum in 1952, came from the nearby Muhos - the most shocking murder case of the decade: a family of four were slaughtered, not far from Oulu - the most memorable event was a performance by Tapio Rautavaara - after the performance he walked on the streets of Oulu, carrying a spear on his shoulder, and we little boys followed him - ♪ Tapio Rautavaara, "niin pienen pieni" - Väinö Tiger paintings - Paavo Leinonen paintings - the Merikoski waterfall was dammed in 1940, and the first generator was opened in 1948 - a big chunk of the beauty of Oulu disappeared - Oulu was far from everywhere, thence the urge to reach the top of technology? - my Oulu dream ended in 1959 - my grandmother died - she is the only one of our family who has been buried in Oulu (year of birth: 1885) - I then got a stepmother; now I was also fatherless - I knew I would leave Oulu - a more important university for me - excerpt: Bronenosets Potyomkin - the manifesto of eternal rebellion - OTEK, the Oulu Teenagers' Film Society - at 15 I joined - it was a site of film culture without comparison before or after - no photograph exists of its activities - The Lavender Hill Mob, Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse, Due soldi di speranza, La Kermesse héroïque, Stagecoach, Varastettu kuolema - excerpt: Varastettu kuolema: final images from the Baltic Sea, Tuulikki Paananen dying on the boat - the screen - the essence of our city - the vision of hope - the sea connection - paintings by Pentti Koivisto - everything spiritual was connected with the sea - the power of the Toppila harbour - Oulu was international more than a hundred years before the age of information technology - the light of the future in the pictures of the 1950s - four schoolmates perished in an autumn storm - in a recent school reunion, fourteen of us had passed - we did not know to become a part of the business Oulu - Matti Hälli - 8 mm footage of moments of happiness of our parents and teachers.