|Sampo photo montage by the Night Visions festival, 2013|
Four versions were shot: both in Russian and in Finnish, both in Academy and in scope. The Russian versions' rights run via Mosfilm, the Finnish versions' via Suomi-Filmi.
A 35 mm restoration was conducted by SEA in 1995 (Dolby Stereo) (The Centenary of the Cinema).
Premiere of the 4K DCP (KAVI 2014) restoration, Cinema Orion, Helsinki (KAVI Digitizes), 12 March 2014.
Pekka Tähtinen: Sampo restored in 4K at KAVI (2014):
The source material was the original 35 mm nitrate negative. In some scenes individual frames were patched from a dupe positive due to severe tears. Special attention was paid to the Sovcolor colour system and the Dyaliscope scope format.
Before the scanning the films were repaired and cleaned manually. The negative was compared with an original print for missing frames. The image was scanned with a DFT Scanity film scanner resorting to the native resolution 4152 x 3164 of the cell of the scanner. All further restoration and post-processing was conducted in this original resolution, and the image was scaled to the 2,35:1 frame ratio first at the mastering stage. The screening format is 4K DCP.
The restoration of the image started with flicker removal which was conducted scene by scene. In superimpositions, fade-outs, and images lit by the blaze of flames flicker removal was, however, impossible.
An automatic dirt removal with easy settings was conducted to the image throughout. After that the image was stabilized, and further dirt removal was conducted with various settings, partially resorting to masks. Some dirt and other artifacts were also removed fully manually. Also scratches in the negative were removed whenever possible. The most arduous handicraft stage was repairing scanning failures due to tape joins in the film negatives. As a rule there was an attempt to repair the joins, but in certain cases an entire frame had to be reconstructed.
The impressive visual effects of the film have not been touched up digitally. Instead, certain original technical disorders have been left as they are.
The DaVinci Revival was mostly used in the restoration. Part of the stabilization, dirt removal and scratch removal was conducted with the Phoenix system of DigitalVision.
The image scanned from the negative has been colour redefined throughout. The objective was to maintain the shades of the original viewing prints, but there was a problem with a reliable reference. Sovcolor is specially apt to fade, and thus existant film prints could not be used as a basis for colour definition. This is why there was an attempt for maximal neutrality in the colour definition, yet making use of the nuances of the original negative. For instance there was an attempt to appraise the differences between the colour worlds of Pohjola and Kalevala based on the negative. Sovcolor is typically regarded to lean slightly on the blue side, and this is evident especially in the scenes that take place in Pohjola. The colour definition was conducted via the DaVinci Resolve programme.
The source material of the sound was the original four-channel magnetic sound. The restoration of the sound was conducted via Cedar's Cambridge system and ProTools. Disorders such as noise, clicks and hisses were removed in the restoration of the sound, and phase errors were repaired, among others. Clicks stemming from the channel switches at the sound editing board in the source material have been repaired manually throughout.
The original stereo sound image has not been edited. It has been preserved as it is, that is, quite broad, also with regard to dialogue. The four channel sound was mastered throughout to correspond to its original sound world. The sound of the digital viewing copies (DCPs) corresponds to the modern 5.1 sound system.
The dialogue of Väinämöinen's wedding speech is worksound of quite weak quality. There was an attempt to bring this dialogue in balance with the rest of the sound world of the scene. Also one of the songs in the scene had to be transferred from stereo to mono sound due to disturbances. Otherwise the sound is faithful to the original. The next time a comparable multi-channel soundscape was heard in a Finnish film was first in the 1980s, presumably first in Markku Lehmuskallio's Korpinpolska (1980). Pekka Tähtinen, 12 March 2014 (my translation)
My first viewings of this film have been disheartening. There is such a giant effort by many talents, yet the heart and soul of Kalevala is missing.
Today there was a particular frisson in witnessing the gorgeous vistas of Crimea, under an acute threat of annexation by President Putin.
Another frisson stems from the twin logos of Mosfilm and Suomi-Filmi side by side in the opening scope format credit sequence.
Watching the film with lowered expectations there were things I could now appreciate.
1. The special effect of the Statue of Elias Lönnrot with Väinämöinen coming alive as living statues (like it has been in fashion in the street culture in recent years). The film is very strange for a Finn, yet there is a sense that Ptushko does love the Kalevala lore. A similar feeling comes from the Walt Disney Fantasia Continued episode of The Swan of Tuonela.
2. Lemminkäinen is introduced as a dashing and brave logroller.
3. Annikki is introduced with flowers blossoming in time lapse images. Also in Pohjola supernaturally fast-blossoming flowers emerge, only to be crushed by Louhi and her henchmen as fast as possible.
4. Sampo belongs to the early primitive phase of stereo sound: there is a sharp distinction of left and right in the dialogue of the scope frame. It sounds funny. (As it did in The Robe).
5. Alexander Ptushko is always at home in scenes and effects of magic. The wizards conjure visions of far away events, seen in miniatures in a magic fire. The most expensive sequence was the one in which Lemminkäinen ploughs the field of vipers. A funny and comical feature are the chained windbags in Louhi's vaults. Louhi can conjure storms with them.
6. The aesthetically most impressive effect is Louhi's black magic cape which turns into a sail with a will of its own, bringing Annikki to Pohjola.
7. Urho Somersalmi, the great veteran of Finnish theatre and cinema - he started before WWI - is the only actor who speaks in his own voice in this Finnish version of the movie. He also sings impressively in his own voice as Väinämöinen. He was still at his best.
Hilkka Helinä's voice performance as the mother of Lemminkäinen is very fine.
Interestingly, Urho Somersalmi's little sister Aune Somersalmi performs in the voice role of Louhi, the adversary of Väinämöinen.
8. Peter von Bagh has compared the burning bush of The Ten Commandments to electric fireplaces popular in America in the 1950s. A similar impression is given by the underwhelming sampo in this film. Sampo is a mythological mill of success, wealth, prosperity, salt, gold, and grain. The Kalevala and the Pohjola peoples conduct their battle for the possession of the sampo. The blacksmith Ilmarinen is able to forge one, but only with a special effort in special circumstances.
9. Sampo the movie is a naive fairy-tale. It fails to achieve grandeur in the sampo scenes and its performances, except for Väinämöinen and the mother of Lemminkäinen.
10. The heart of the emotional authenticity is the distress of the mother of Lemminkäinen. Lemminkäinen has been assassinated by Louhi who lets her snake bite him in the neck and orders her henchmen to throw the corpse to the sea. With her immense effort, helped by a weeping birch and a living rock, the mother of Lemminkäinen conjures her son back from the bottom of the sea and revives him, also helped by the light of the sun and her bottomless motherly love.
11. The conclusion is dramatized as a battle of light and darkness. Louhi is able to extinguish the sun, but the Kalevala braves put the Pohjola people to a trance with their kantele concert and are able to release the sun. The Kalevala people defeat the Pohjola people with music. The film ends with Väinämöinen's paean to the sun.
12. Ivan Morozov's score is neo-national-romantical in style, and the orchestra plays it magnificently. The songs are not bad, and they have something of the ancient Kalevala spirit.
The new digital 4K restoration is fine, and I like the colour solutions. I had been introduced to Sampo by the prints availabe in the 1980s with their faded and drab colour. The 1995 35 mm SEA restoration was a revelation of how exhilarating Alexander Ptushko's colour fantasy really was. Now a similar feat has been achieved in the digital world. We should arrange a comparison screening of both the 35 mm (1995 restoration) and the 4K DCP (2014 restoration).