Wednesday, January 19, 2011

250 grammaa / 250 Grams - a Radioactive Testament

250 gram. FI 1983. PC: P-Kino Oy. P+D: Pirjo Honkasalo & Pekka Lehto - based on the poem Efter flera tusen rad (1974, translated by Pentti Saaritsa) by Reidar Ekner. ED: Pirjo Honkasalo assisted by Eva Janíková. DP: Kari Sohlberg. M: Matti Bergström. S: Johan Hake, Paul Jyrälä. Make-up: Mila Niemi. AD: Pentti Valkeasuo. Interpreter: Kirsi Tykkyläinen. Production manager: Jaakko Talaskivi. Photographs: Lauri Tykkyläinen, Pirjo Honkasalo. Loc: Lastenlinna (Children's Castle Hospital, Helsinki) Cast: Nikita Mikhalkov (Max Sjöman) - voice: Heikki Määttänen, Vilma Melasniemi (Venla Sjöman), Tibor (the gladiator), Miss Nicole (the acrobat), Kari Sorvali (the doctor), Verna Melasniemi, Juho Milonoff ja Tuomas Milonoff (Venla's playmates), Niilo Ihamäki (tv commentator). 56 min. A print without subtitles viewed at Cinema Orion (A Tribute to Pirjo Honkasalo), 19 Jan 2011

A fiction film inspired by a poem by the Swedish poet Reidar Ekner, whose daughter died of cancer. The core of the film is the story of architect Max Sjöman and her 9-year old daughter Venla who is diagnozed with brain cancer. They do everything they can to rescue Venla in realistic sequences shot in an actual children's cancer ward, and she wins one and a half years of a life in health. Max is played strongly by the great Russian star Nikita Mikhalkov with the voice of Heikki Määttänen (a strange solution but it works). Vilma Melasniemi (years later a well-known actress and singer) has an intensive presence already in this demanding and unforgettable child role.

There is a framing story about the building of a nuclear power plant, in which Max works as an architect. Max lets lay in the foundation a cylinder with a photograph of his deceased daughter.

Max is reminded that there was huge radioactive fallout from the nuclear tests in the Northern hemisphere in the early 1960s. The radioactivity is still alarming after over 20 years.

250 grams was released three years before Chernobyl. When the Chernobyl disaster took place I was in Berlin cycling around Wannsee and reading the papers I realized that I had already been exposed to many times more radioactive fallout in the early 1960s during those Northern nuclear tests. The first Russian expression I learned at school was "Novaya Zemlya" (the site of the detonation of the biggest nuclear bomb).

According to the Finnish National Filmography 250 grams only received 185 spectors on its cinema run. Its real audience it received on television. It was a rare privilege to see this strong movie on the big screen.

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