Monday, November 24, 2014

Finnland im Kampf

Anzeiger für die Stadt Bern, 30 Jan 1941
Finnland im Kampf / Ein kleines Volk wehrt sich: Finnlands Freiheitskampf. Ein Dokument vom heroischen Verteidigungswillen eines kleinen Volkes, geschaffen von zwei Schweizern in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Schweizer Hilfswerk für Finnland. CH 1940. D: E. O. Stauffer. DP: Charles Zbinden. S (Vertonung): Cinegram A. G. Genf. Visatone. Lizenz Marconi. The film was not released in Finland. 77 min
    Restored in August 2014 by Cinémathèque suisse (Lausanne). Kopierwerk: Digimage, Paris.
    Music excerpts include: Jean Sibelius: "Finlandia", "The Swan of Tuonela", and "Belshazzar's Feast".
    Featuring: Wäinö Aaltonen, flygflott 19 commander Bäckhammar, A. K. Cajander, minister Ecker (Swiss ambassador), Carl-August Ehrensvärd, Erik von Frenckell, Ragnar Grönvall, Haakon VII, Väinö Hakkila, Kristian X, Kustaa V, Kyösti Kallio, Heikki Kekoni, C. G. E. Mannerheim, Jussi Mäntynen, Johan Nykopp, Aitanga Oesch, Alli Paasikivi, J. K. Paasikivi, Aladár Paasonen, E. O. Stauffer, Väinö Tanner, Charles Zbinden.
     A 1940 French-language parallel version: La Bataille de la Finlande / Un petit peuple se défend / La Bataille de Finlande.
    A 1970 re-release version, 50 min
    A 1988 re-release version, at 16 mm, in a German version and a French version, 25 min
    A screener dvd of the 2014 Lausanne restoration viewed at home, 24 Nov 2014

Commissioned by the Schweizer Hilfswerk für Finnland two young Swiss, E. O. Stauffer and Charles Zbinden, traveled to Finland to cover the Winter War (30 November 1939 - 13 March 1940) equipped with a 35 mm camera and a 16 mm Bolex camera [source: Roland Cosandey, memo 2011]. The temperatures of minus 30-40 grades Centigrade did not scare them.

Erwin Oscar Stauffer was born in 1912, and he represented Berg & Heimat Film. Carl Zbinden was born in 1910, and he represented Peka-Film. They stayed in Finland from 16 February until 3 March, 1940. (Source: Martti Julkunen: Talvisodan kuva. Ulkomaisten sotakirjeenvaihtajien kuvaukset Suomesta 1939-40. Helsinki: Weilin+Göös, 1975. [The source there: Valtioneuvoston tiedoituskeskus (Matti Pyykkö) Helsingin poliisimestarille 3.3.1940 (VA Da. 4).] [Another source mentioned there: Erwin Stauffer: "Ein Finnland-Film von zwei Schweizer unter Todesgefahr aufgenommen". Schweizer Film-Revue 11.1.1941]. Stauffer and Zbinden were sportsmen, skiers, mountaineers, and mountain film makers. The Bolex camera was the best choice for extreme temperatures. [Source: Roland Cosandey, 28 Nov 2014].

There is an introduction to Finland and to events in the autumn 1939 before the war. We witness a modern total war with an all-out murderous bombing of civilians in order totally to demoralize the people. We see huge crowds of refugees. Most of this footage is from pre-existing sources.

The film then is structured as a travel story.

The first journey takes us to Lemetti. Finnish officers explain us the motti tactics with which courageous fighters can cut up a superior aggressor and destroy it bit by bit. The tactics was put into practice against the fearsome Blue Division, the 44th Division, infamous from the attack to Poland, now destroyed by Finns at the Raate road / Raatteen tie. The stunning footage of the war loot of the destroyed enemy is shot at Itä-Lemetti and perhaps Länsi-Lemetti

The second journey brings us to the bitter cold of Lapland, to Salla, where some of the most ferocious battles of the war took place. The Swiss film the Finnish trek to Salla and illustrate the counterattack to Joutsijärvi via military rehearsal footage. The Russians are beaten with heavy losses. Mannerheim inspects the troops and decorates Swedish volunteers.

The film is a heartfelt tribute to the heroism of the Finnish people. It is not a militaristic film, however. There is a profound sense of mourning about the devastation of the war. There is a human connection in the footage which always emphasizes the human face, often eloquently: the children at play, the Lotta women helping with air defense and medical care, the refugees who have lost their homes, the firemen facing superhuman challenges, the soldiers with their laconic attitude on the front, and the Russian prisoners-of-war who are treated as human beings, too. Stauffer and Zbinden also cover the Finnish madness of the sauna ritual of rolling naked in the snow at minus 30 grades temperature.

Frontline combat footage in war films, including documentaries, is almost always faked, and that is the case here, too. The combat scenes have been photographed at show battle demonstrations for foreign journalists and at military training centers.

Cinémathèque suisse has conducted a valuable work of restoration. Thanks are due to Roland Cosandey who has championed this film and reminded also us in Finland about it. There has been a 16 mm study print in Finland, but it has not been in general release.
Anzeiger für die Stadt Bern, 29 Jan 1941

Even rougher notes

Finnland im Kampf / Ein kleines Volk wehrt sich: Finnlands Freiheitskampf. E. O. Stauffer. Suisse, 1940. Mit der Unterstützung von: []. Restaurierung: Cinémathèque suisse. Kopierwerk: Digimage, Paris.

♪ Jean Sibelius: Finlandia. - Coat of arms of Finland. - Finnland im Kampf. - Ein Dokument vom heroischen Verteidigungswillen eines kleinen Volkes, geschaffen von zwei Schweizern in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Schweizer Hilfswerk für Finnland. - Vertonung: Cinegram A. G. Genf. Visatone. Lizenz Marconi. - Regie: E. O. Stauffer. Camera: Charles Zbinden. - Living portrait: E. O. Stauffer. - Living portrait: Charles Zbinden. - Stormy waters. - Commentary starts. Imagery of nature, slash-and-burn (kaski, kaskiviljely, kaskenpoltto). Footage from Finnish non-fiction, perhaps Aho & Soldan. ♪ still Finlandia. Forest industry. Paper mills. Construction. Postitalo, the Central Post Office. The construction site of the Olympic Stadion. Parliament House. A modern cultural state. The Helsinki Central Bus Station. The Vyborg Castle. Mines. Der harte Granit, Urstein: the hard granite, the primordial stone. Modern architecture. Democracy. Huge power plants. The untamed waterfalls. Wäinö Aaltonen sculpts a bust of  Jean Sibelius. ♪ still Finlandia. A dip into the lake. Paddlers. 5 min. ♪ end of the Finlandia excerpt.

♪ A new music theme. A baptism in blood. The military. Harte Lebensbedingungen, tough circumstances of life. A healthy people, a will for freedom, militarily alert.

Stockholm: the three Kings of the North: Gustav, Christian, Haakon - and the President of Finland, Kyösti Kallio. [18 Oct 1939].

The invitations to negotiate in Moscow. J. K. Paasikivi, and Aarne Yrjö-Koskinen.  The train to Moscow.

Trenches being dug. One has to be prepared for everything. Health care. The negotiators return from Moscow: J. K. Paasikivi, Väinö Hakkila, Väinö Tanner [16 Oct 1939?]. Moscow claims Hanko, islands, the Karelian peninsula, and Petsamo. Niemals ohne Kampf, never without a fight.

Another negotiation, in a spirit of trust, J. K. Paasikivi, Johan Nykopp, Aladár Paasonen [25 Oct 1939?]. The life is being normalized. Children at play at yards, a happy bustle.

1 Dec 1939 bomber planes in the sky. Russia attacks. Superior military power. Bombed cities. Total war.

Marshal Mannerheim. The 1200 km border. Children in shelters. 20 meters under ground. A long sequence about shelters being strengthened. Drilling. Covering windows and shop windows. A state of war. Volunteers from Nordic countries. Building protective structures. Long rows of windows, all covered.

Protective layers of sacks. All food rationed. The market open only till ten. Air raid monitoring points. Erkki Tanttu posters warn of careless talk and spies.

In the countryside: endless rows of refugees. Horses, evaquees from Karelia. Powerful imagery. Eloquent close-ups. Serious looks. Horse-drawn loads being transported in the snow. 13 min

A steam train, the Ukko-Pekka engine. ♪ A male choir sings in Finnish. People emerge from the train. It is snowing. The children who have lost their homes. Eloquent images of faces of homeless children. There are also refugees from Lapland. 15 min

Smiling faces of helpers. Patients in their beds in a hospital. Children patients. In case of an air raid they can take shelter in the basement. Relief packages from many countries, especially from Sweden. Even a teddy bear has been sent. Even the children are busy at work. 17 min

♪ Singing a hymn. "Eine feste Burg ist unser Gott." Karelian farmers sing a hymn in chorus. Solemn faces. An air defence surveillance tower in the middle of the forest. Minus 30 grades Centigrade. Women of the Lotta organization. The telephone connections of the air defence surveillance. The alarms are effective. The siren is wailing. People run to shelter. Horse-drawn vehicles and cars.

Men in trenches. Bombers in the sky. Alarm sirens on fire engines. The city on fire. Burning buildings. A violent fire storm. Ruins. Battered houses. ♪ Jean Sibelius: The Swan of Tuonela, 21 min

Ruins. It is snowing. Long slow pans on damaged houses. The aim of the Russian air force: to crush the will of defense of the Finnish people. But reconstruction starts again. ♪ end of the excerpt of The Swan of Tuonela. 23 min

A long pan from a hill. Wir fahren über Pieksämäki, nach Sortavala, an die Ladoga Front - we travel via Pieksämäki to Sortavala on the Ladoga front. A view from the train window. A baby's face in extreme close up. A train-centered sequence. The route is being drawn via pencil on a map. A look into the sky: the bombers. The sirens. Close-ups of citizens taking shelter in the terrain. A shot of the cinematographer Charles Zbinden photographing the sky. The forests are no secure shelter. Several casualties.

The main questions: Is my house still standing? Where are my relatives? Houses ablaze. Wreckage of houses. 27 min. The fire department at work. The destruction of the fire. In the middle of ruined houses. Icicles. Like a charmed world. 29 min

The almost superhuman efforts of firemen. A destroyed bomber. The heroic resistance. Only a chimney is standing of a big house. Furniture in the snow. A montage of destruction. 31 min. Books. Raamatun kuvasto = Illustrations to the Bible. A phantom ride: the camera on the windshield of a car.


♪ Sibelius: The Swan of Tuonela. An officers' HQ called Chamonix on the front. The officers meet. The motti has been successful. [The motti is an encirclement tactic, a blockade, involving salients, re-entrants, and pockets.] On a map an illustration is chalked on how a motti is carried out. The strength of the Finns is great mobility. There is a small group of sharpshooters. The weakest points are attacked at. The Russian lines are broken, their spearheads are surrounded and destroyed. The famous Blue Division [the 44th Division]. We never let them catch their breath. We put on skis. It will be a death march for the Russians. 34 min

Lautlos, schnell und schonungslos gegen die Gegner: noiselessly, fast, and mercilessly against the enemy. The tank brigade is being demoralized. Without hate but conscious of the goal. The desperate Russians. Fighting in the snow [reconstructed?]. A war dog brings a message in minus 31 grades. A medic helps a wounded soldier. A sledge is brought to help him. The head of the wounded soldiers is bandaged. 36 min

A long take: a wounded soldier is being transported on a sledge. ♪ Sibelius: Finlandia. The following night. 900 Finns attack 3000 Russians. The image is black. There are sounds only. Sunrise. The tank brigade has been destroyed. The ruins of the Russian tank brigade. The shrieks of a bird. Long pans: the destruction of the Russian division. 38 min

Casualties. A huge amount of loot. A long sequence. Silent evidence. The tank fortress has been conquered. 41 min

The Russians have been killed by shots clean in the head and in the heart. The sharpshooters have aimed well. Russian bombers appear on the sky. The Finns do not reveal their positions. The sounds of the bird. The Russian had been planning a long stay. There is a telephone central. There are commando posts. 43 min

Nightfall. A Russian POW officer tells about Russia, his wife, his sons. Another Russian POW tells also. ♪ A familiar Russian choir song. Eloquent close-ups of Russians. There is not a sense of anti-Russian hate. This is a human approach. 45 min

Footage from a moving vehicle in the middle of the destroyed brigade. 30 grades minus. Alarm! Russians have detected us. A bomber on the sky. Taking shelter in the terrain. 47 min

Arriving in the camp, the end of the hell trip. Horses. Water from the avanto, the hole in the ice. Here was the Finnish camp commando. Little has remained. Fireplaces. Camp service: chop wood. War cannot expel a sense of humour. Naked Finns emerge from the sauna as the bomber is thundering on the sky. A dugout sauna. A live hand grenade. 49 min

Another road map line being drawn. Savonlinna - Lahti - Helsinki. The reception centre of the reservists. ♪ A male choir singing. Mrs. Oesch, Director of a Lotta group. Conquered war loot: Russian banderoles. A helmet that has been shot through. Russian weapons. 51 min. A long montage of war loot. A Russian parachute mine. An air torpedo. A firebomb. Another road map line: over Hämeenlinna, Kokkola, Oulu, Rovaniemi. 53 min


Rovaniemi. Posters on spies. War dogs. Only two places have not been bombed. Deep love for the country. Horrible ruins.  Dog sleds. Märkäjärvi, Kemijärvi, Salla. The most bitter and cruel battles. Polar dogs. Fed with fish. Disciplined dogs. They pull sledges with heavy loads. ♪ Sibelius: Belshazzar's Feast. War in Lapland. Footage shot from a sledge. 56 min

A long sequence about sledges pulled by dogs. A look into the sky. Again the birds of doom are thundering. Dogs into shelter. Covered with snow. 58 min

Thrilling footage shot from the sledge. The only road sign left: Märkäjärvi - Salla. Salla front. Salla ruins. Everything has been destroyed to the ground. Alarm! A mined area. 60 min

The entire area is mined. The mine wires. The reindeers are in peril. They are the unwitting mine detectors. Swedish volunteers. 62 min

Impressive footage. A Swedish grave of Colonel Magnus Dyrssen. Här stupade Magnus Dyrssen 1.3.1940 för Nordens frihet och Sveriges ära - for the Freedom of the North and the honour of Sweden.

Footage from behind the windshield on the Salla road. The reindeer in front of the car slow down the journey. Abandoned Russian posts. 64 min

The men and the animals, even horses, are stationed in dugouts. Quiet and determination. Nowhere nervosity. A motorcycle. 40 grades minus in icy wind. Joutsijärvi has been taken yesterday by Russians. Now it needs to be conquered back. 66 min

The last forest range. The firing positions. No commands are heard. Everyone knows precisely. He does it calmly. The stalking soldiers in their white winter war suits approach Russians. The fire is started. Without fear but with care they go forward. A bullet flies by our camera. There is a long frontline combat sequence. 69 min

Joutsijärvi has been taken back. ♪ Sibelius: Finlandia. The Russians have been beaten with heavy losses. Again footage of the destruction of the war. 71 min

Es wird Appell gemacht - the troops gather at rakovalkea, a log fire. Ski maintenance at the fire. An extreme close-up of the fire.

Mannerheim inspects the Swedish volunteer troops at Salla. He salutes and gives a speech. A long tracking shot of the troops. Mannerheim decorates war heroes and shakes everyone's hand. Behind Mannerheim stands Lt. Col. Carl-August Ehrensvärd (later, 1948-1957, commander of the Swedish army. His ancestor was the architect of the Suomenlinna sea fortress).

13 March 1940 on a calendar. Peace. A map into which new borders are drawn. Finland loses some of Petsamo and Salla, the Karelian isthmus, islands in the Gulf of Finland, and Hanko. The Finnish flag is at half mast. That is why Suomi mourns. She lost 19.000 of her sons. Devastated regions will be rebuilt. "Yet Finland remains an example for all. She lost a piece of land yet maintained her freedom." A soldier on guard. ♪ Sibelius: Finlandia. The coat of arms of Finland. Superimposition on it: ENDE

August 2014
Cinémathèque suisse. 77 min

[I checked my viewing notes against the critical protocol of Suomen elokuva-arkisto of the print held by the former Puolustusvoimain elokuva-arkisto / The Finnish Defense Forces Film Archive. Finnland im Kampf, SL-3010, Sign 1984 / Risto Kautto, Sources: ltn. col. Anssi Vuorenmaa, ltn. col. Antti Juutilainen, Eero Elvengren (Sotahistoriallinen toimisto), Päämajan Prop. 2. päiväkirja 1939-40 (Sota-arkisto); Martti Julkunen: Talvisodan kuva (1975)]. - It is a 15-page analysis of the film reel by reel, shot by shot. There are informed guesses of the sources of the shots.

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