Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 16 Jan 2008. Mr. Arto af Hällström, director at the National Theatre, son of Roland af Hällström and Elvi Saarnio, was the guest of honour to open our Roland af Hällström retrospective, starring Elvi Saarnio in 12 films. Roland af Hällström (1905-1956) was a journalist, always fast and efficient. He had a sharp pen, and so in 1935 Väinö Mäkelä asked him "to do it better", and that's how he got started as a director. Simultaneously, Roland wrote the first Finnish-language history of the cinema (still interesting, with original ideas about the silent era). Roland worked mostly for the Mäkelä family (Väinän Filmi, Fenno-Filmi, Fennada), as they got along well. He was always a fluent writer, often his own screenwriter. But he also had a stark visual sense since his film critic days in the silent era (he wrote a fine eulogy on Mauritz Stiller), he worked with the flaming visualist Teuvo Tulio in two films, and got an excellent DP, Esko Töyri, who has considered difficult to work with, but Roland found a good partner in him. Roland preferred strong and interesting female characters and was a good actors' director, much better than Tulio. Filming Läpi usvan, he met Elvi Saarnio, his future wife, mother of Arto. He died with his boots on, in the arms of Töyri, on location, directing Lain mukaan. His brother Raoul af Hällström was a top theatre and ballet critic, who wrote Finland's first history of the ballet. It was great to welcome Arto af Hällström and hear his reminiscences of the talented family.

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