Sunday, March 20, 2016

Järven tarina / [The Saga of the Lake]

Shooting Järven tarina. All photos by Pasi Lensu. No humans appear in the film itself. Please click to enlarge the photos.
Sagan om sjön. PC: MRP Matila Röhr Productions Oy. P: Marko Röhr. D: Marko Röhr, Kim Saarniluoto. SC: Antti Tuuri, Marko Röhr - based on the story by Antti Tuuri. DP: Teemu Liakka. Nature cinematography: Teemu Liakka, Hannu Siitonen, Mikko Pöllänen, Jan Henriksson, Atte Henriksson, Juha "Norppa" Taskinen, Juha "Tyyne" Laaksonen. Underwater cameraman: Pasi Lensu. Aerial cinematography: Teemu Liakka. The hot air balloon pilot: Jukka Kujala. The drone: Kari Ylitalo / MADEinSKY Oy. Post production: Post Control / Tuomo Hintikka. VFX: Turo Mallinen, Ville Koivuranta, Sebastian Drews, Sakari Raappana. Colour definition: Pentti Keskimäki. DCP mastering: Juuso Selin. Narrator: Samuli Edelmann. Singer: Johanna Kurkela. M: Panu Aaltio. S: Juha Hakanen. ED: Kim Saarniluoto. Hydrobiologist: Juha "Roope" Flinkman. Diving master: Ari Ilola. 76 min
    Main locations: Saimaa: e.g. Savonlinna, Puumala, Pihlajavesi, Tuunaansalmi, Puruvesi, Haapavesi, Linnasaari, Lappeenranta, Sulkava, Vuoksi, Imatra, Kitee / Puhos, Hollola, Parikkala, Simpele, UKK National Park / the northern part of Saariselkä, Kuusamo, Oulanka, Puula, Inari, Kainuu.
    Further locations: Heinola, Jaala, Sipoo, Raasepori, Lauhanvuoren kansallispuisto, Päijänne. Vaasan seutu, Jämijärvi, Hämeenkoski, Repovesi, Verla, Evo, Helsinki, Liippilampi, Kolkonjärvi.
    Starring: nieriä (the char), koskikara (the dipper), laulujoutsen (the whooper swan), saukko (the otter), rupikonna (the toad), hirvi (the moose), kurki (the crane), ahven (the perch), karhu (the bear), kuikka (the black-throated loon), majava (the beaver), rapu (the European crayfish), hauki (the pike), kalasääski (the osprey), kaakkuri (the red-throated loon), lokki (the gull), merikotka (the sea eagle), sudenkorento (the dragonfly), vesimittari (the water strider), polyyppi (the hydrozoa), kulkusammaleläin (the bryozoa / the walking moss animal), Saimaannorppa (The Saimaa ringed seal), hanhi (the goose), taimen (the brown trout), made (the burbot), simpukka (the bivalvia),
    Released by Oy Nordisk Film Ab.
    2K DCP viewed at Kino Kellokas, at  Kellokas Nature and Cultural Center, Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park, Äkäslompolo, 20 March 2016

Eight teams of top nature cinematographers started work on Järven tarina in the autumn of 2012. The follow-up to the popular Metsän tarina [The Saga of the Forest] (2012, directed by Ville Suhonen) is again an ambitious contribution to the nature documentary. Again, there is a deep mythical background to the unique and rare nature footage. The excursion to the secrets of nature is at the same time a spiritual quest. The mythical background has this time been provided by Antti Tuuri, a major contemporary Finnish author many of whose novels have been successfully filmed.

Nature documentary has been enjoying a golden age on television during the recent decades. Only the most special nature documentary projects now reach the cinema theatre screen. Järven tarina does not cover exotic  locations. On the contrary, it approaches predominantly ordinary phenomena of nature but in a way that brings out the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Visually, Järven tarina is a treat, and it constantly presents angles and approaches that make us see nature like we have never seen it before. In this it belongs to a noble tradition dating back to the Éclair documentary unit 110 years ago, Jean Painlevé, and Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Marko Röhr is the Finnish master of underwater films (Underwater Iceland), and here again the underwater photography is astounding and revelatory. There is also staggering aerial footage shot from hot air balloons and drones. Thus Järven tarina breaks in all three counts the prohibition of the image from the Decalogue which forbids us to make any likeness of anything in the heaven above, the earth beneath, or the water under the earth.

The structure: the four seasons - spring, summer, autumn, winter. The snowy spring and winter footage is stupendous. The footage on the underwater fountainheads has a special weight in the entire project.

There are many delightful and unique scenes in this film that will be worth revisiting. The swans arriving at their icy landing strip. The playful otters and their sizable catch of fish. The wrestling match of toads. Perches swimming upstream to spawn. Bright underwater footage of giant schools of perches. Loons fighting for leadership. The amazing transformation (ecdysis) of the dragonfly from a diver to a flyer. The underwater life of beavers. The trouts swimming upstream in the autumn to their spawning rituals, complete with dancing. The secret, belligerent winter life of crabs. Among the most unique scenes are those of the ultra rare Saimaa ringed seals which have their pups in winter and are dependent of sufficient sheltering snow for their nests.

While the concept of the film is admirable, I find the parts stronger than the whole. The film is full of images and scenes that are fabulous and awesome.

And while those images are powerful and well composed and lit under almost impossible circumstances, there are issues of digital quality (texture and colour), as nature is still more difficult for digital to convey than the urban and technological world. Anyway, this is a delightful and family-friendly film for all nature lovers.

Järven tarina, released two months ago, is already the most popular Finnish documentary film in the period of modern viewer statistics starting in 1970.

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