Friday, May 20, 2016

Pitkänsillan pohjoispuolella / [North of the Pitkäsilta Bridge]

The writer Alpo Ruuth hosting the documentary film Pitkänsillan pohjoispuolella.
FI 1982. PC: MTV Oy. D: Riikka Takala. SC: Alpo Ruuth. Cinematography: 16 mm sepmag - colour. Toimittaja: Jarna Laine-Penttilä. A documentary on Kallio and Sörnäinen. Featuring: Alpo Ruuth. 56 min
    Loc: Helsinki: Kallio (10. district / arrondissement) and Sörnäinen (11. district / arrondissement).
    There is no composed music score. My notes and guesses from the compilation score: Salvation Army music, "Taistojen tiellä" (Hannes Konno, Knut Kangas), "Lapsuusajan maisemissa" (Lassi Hynninen, Helka Hynninen) sung by an old man, "Serenata" (Enrico Toselli) played on a barrel organ, Christian music played by young musicians at the Siion revivalist house, "Seiskari" (Georg Malmstén, R. R. Ryynänen) played on a shellac record, "Hopeinen kuu" ("Guarda che luna") (Gualtiero Malgoni, Finnish lyrics Reino Helismaa) sung by Reijo Taipale, "Köyhä laulaja" (Toivo Kärki, Kullervo) sung by Henry Theel, "Margarita" (Raul Reiman, Jorma Sivonen) sung by Kake Randelin.
    Telecast 3.5.1982 MTV1. Production number: MTV 180109.
    4K DCP (KAVI 2015) -  2960 x 2160 - 1,37 Academy - speed: 24 - colour - colour space: X’Y’Z’ - primaries: P3 - bit depth 12. Sound format: BWF - bit depth: 24 - sampling frequency: 48 - channels: 6 (5.1) - mono.    
    The opening and end credits have not survived, nor eventual teletitles identifying people interviewed. There were two commercial breaks in the original telecast.
    A KAVI screening with Kallio Kukkii / Työväenliikkeen Kirjasto.
    Viewed at the Kino Tulio screening room, Helsinki (Kallio Kukkii / Alpo Ruuth), 20 May 2016

The personal journey of the writer Alpo Ruuth on his home turf, the workers' neighbourhoods Kallio and Sörnäinen "North of the Pitkäsilta Bridge". The current Pitkäsilta bridge was built in the year 1912 as was the Kallio Church on top of the hill, both made of granite, as is the Helsinki Workers' House, built in 1908. A further central establishment, the Hakaniemi Market Hall, was built in 1914.

The Pitkäsilta Bridge had especially in the 20th century a symbolic and political meaning as the demarcation line between "White Helsinki" and "Red Helsinki", and when in the 1960s President Kekkonen "crossed the Pitkäsilta Bridge" it meant reaching out to heal some of the most acute remaining wounds of our tragic civil war. Kekkonen himself had fought with the Whites in 1918.

In the 1960s when we lived for six years at Neljäs linja in Kallio the division between the working-class Kallio and the bourgeois central Helsinki was still topical. Since then the identity of Kallio / Sörnäinen has transformed into something less divisive. It has been favoured by students, artists, bohemians, and creative people, and it also contains the main red light district of the city. Two senses of the symbolic colour of "red" have existed here.

Since 2009 KAVI (ex-Finnish Film Archive) has been located at the dirty and noisy Sörnäisten rantatie 25, between Käenkuja and Vilhonvuorenkatu, facing Helen (the Helsinki Energy Company) and its infamous coal hill which spoils the air and undermines people's health at several kilometers' radius. Here we have daily first hand experience of industrial Sörnäinen as we all develop pneumoconiosis, also known as miner's lung or black lung, as in the early days of the Industrial Revolution. Originally industrial Sörnäinen grew around the Sörnäinen Harbour (1863-2008) but now many of the original industrial premises have been refunctioned, including our own.

Alpo Ruuth's screenplay and presence ground the documentary into his personal first hand experience. We also learn about the history of Kallio and Sörnäinen from other contemporary eyewitnesses, old women who have seen how the workers' house and the Kallio church were built. We see old photographs (by Signe Brander?) and learn facts, big and small. For instance about the modest beginnings of what is today Helsinki Central Fire Station. We visit the now defunct Vaasa Market Hall (the name stems from Vaasankatu Street, in turn derived from King Gustaf Wasa, founder of the city of Helsinki).

We learn about the diversity of life, the many occupations. Kallio and Sörnäinen were not only districts of workers but also of many independent trades and crafts such as shoemakers.

The special sequences are vivid and colourful. A visit to an auction house with a fantastic old school broker, a virtuoso of language, characteristic of the trade. The broker is interviewed. The Karhupuisto Park [the Bear Park, named because of its central statue] is seen during the Christmas tree market. A Salvation Army orchestra and choir is busy saving souls. We visit a pawnhouse. There is a sequence at a carpet washing platform next to our unfortunate coal hill. The janitor of an apartment block of seven stairs is interviewed at the cellar about the maintenance of such a big place. We meet a stern old woman who has played (and still does play) a role in the disciplining of the children of the place. We visit a public sauna during the men's shift with two no-nonsense washerwomen. We witness a public skating rink (the Brahe Square?) where we hear the latest pop hits from the loudspeakers. At the cinema (the now extinct Kino Helsinki, Helsinginkatu 25 next to the Brahe Square?) they are screening Cannonball Run. There is a candid sequence from a revivalist meeting at the Siion [Zion] hall, complete with a charismatic preacher and women who lose consciousness at the touch of the preacher's hand. We also visit the dance hall of Restaurant Tenho which still exists.

There is a wonderful and vivid sense of life in these sequences. Riikka Takala and Alpo Ruuth have a talent of observation and an ability of winning the confidence of the people they are recording.

You cannot have everything in a compact movie like this. Perhaps the authors had deemed that the presence of the writer Alpo Ruuth was enough to cover culture in this work. I miss a visit to the important and central Kallio Library, and an acknowledgement of the distinguished theatre tradition here. It has also been an obvious decision to omit politics and trade union activities entirely, perhaps because they have been amply discussed elsewhere.

Pitkänsillan pohjoispuolella is a valuable contribution to the subject. Another work of high documentary value is Silta [The Bridge, meaning the Pitkäsilta Bridge] (1973) by Aito Mäkinen, based on a classic work of Finnish sociology, Työläisyhteiskunnan synty Pitkänsillan pohjoispuolelle [The Birth of a Workers' Society North of the Pitkäsilta Bridge] (1932-1934) by Heikki Waris (1901-1989), himself present in the movie. Key fictional studies include the tv miniseries Elämänmeno ([The Way of Life], 1978) based on the novel by Pirkko Saisio and directed by Åke Lindman, and the teleplay Kämppä (1970) which we also screened this week.

The movie is very well photographed. It is bookended by impressive long shots with general views of the districts of Sörnäinen and Kallio. The visual approach is lively and many-sided with illuminating tracking shots from a streetcar.

I like the warm and vivid colour in this digital rendition of this precious documentary.

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