Wednesday, January 06, 2010


[Lottorna] / [The Lottas]. FI (c) 1995 Kinotar Oy. P: Lasse Saarinen. D: Taru Mäkelä. SC: Taru Mäkelä, Irma Taina. DP: Jouko Seppälä - colour - 1,66:1 - shot on 16 mm - printed on 35 mm. M: Pekka Sirén. S: Ulla Turunen. ED: Irma Taina. Featuring: Aino Meriläinen, Aini Kaprio, Laina Ojaniemi-Hakala, Martta Arffman, Eeva Tapio. 50 min. The Kinotar 35 mm print was temporarily missing, and we had to screen a Digibeta without subtitles. Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 6 Jan 2010.

The final film of our tribute to Lotta Svärd, the Finnish voluntary auxiliary paramilitary organization for women (1918-1944). Lotta Svärd and other women's organizations were indispensable in saving Finland in the hell of WWII.

The five interviews with Aino Meriläinen (catering lotta), Aini Kaprio (air defense lotta), Laina Ojaniemi-Hakala (signal corps lotta), Martta Arffman (medical lotta), and Eeva Tapio (young lotta) cover a lot of ground. There is room to get profound, to the hard and terrible experiences.

Aino Meriläinen transported a field kitchen between the lines on the front, and the stunned enemy ceased fire. Aini Kaprio tells she was too young to be afraid, but a woman changes after childbirth.

Laina Ojaniemi-Hakala reports that sometimes the lottas had to beware of their own soldiers, who threatened with violence having gotten drunk. She also tells that there was an initial shock at the start of the actual front duty, a hardening and brutalization even for the lottas.

Martta Arffman conveys unforgettably the task of facing the huge piles of corpses which needed to be washed, identified, and shipped home. Corpses with limbs missing, faces blown away. Reason ceased to function, but one has to get used to anything.

Eeva Tapio was a young lotta, only 13 years. The age limit for actual lottas was 16 years, but she was accepted to the emergency room, as her father was a doctor. She fainted immediately, and soon again at an amputation, but she decided to stay. Among the tasks of the lottas was to write soldiers' letters by dictation. There was little lament in those letters.

It all unwound first when it was over. There were many nightmares, even much later. But one rather smiled. It was the end of childhood.

The artistic level of this documentary film is high. The decision to focus on these five women is well-considered. There is enough time for depth. The faces come alive in the cinematography.

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