Friday, October 28, 2011

Film concert Elämän maantiellä / [On the Highway of Life]

På livets landsväg. FI 1927. PC: Oy Komedia Filmi Ab. EX: Gustaf Molin. D: Kurt Jäger, Ragnar Hartwall. SC: Ragnar Hartwall. DP: Kurt Jäger. Assistent cinematographer: Ama Jokinen. AD: Ilmari Mattsson. Cost: Augusta Blomberg Oy. ED: Kurt Jäger. Production manager: Ragnar Hartwall. Still photographs: Kurt Jäger. Loc: Helsinki. Shot in the summer 1927. Cast: Waldemar Wohlström (Tarini), Lia Lae (Irmela), Eric H. Broman (impresario Greeving), Halvar Lindström (Georg), Ella Tigerstedt (Irmela's foster mother), Asser Fagerström, Atso Fagerström, Ama Jokinen (street audience), Armas Laitinen (strongman at the variety). – Bocci (Tarini's donkey). 2290 m /20 fps/ 91 min.

Film concert in the Helsinki Music Centre, 28 Oct 2011. A 35 mm film projection of a version preserved by KAVA, with the original Finnish and Swedish intertitles, opening and end title credits missing. Premiere of the music composed by Yrjö Hjelt. With a piano solo passage by Iiro Rantala. Conductor: Ralf Kircher. Played by the Radio Symphony Orchestra at a strength of 59 (tbc).

Yrjö Hjelt's second composition for a silent film: the first one was Mustalaishurmaaja [The Gypsy Charmer] in 1995. Besides, Mr. Hjelt has arranged the original music for the movies Korkein voitto [The Supreme Victory] and Häiden vietto Karjalan runomailla [Karelian Wedding in the Land of Poetry].

As was the case with Mustalaishurmaaja, this is full, powerful, rich concert music that enhances the film experience tremendously. The scope is large, from war scenes and urban views to intimate moments of solitude and love. The diegetic scenes with the street piano work very well, and Iiro Rantala played his solo passage with inspiration.

The movie is highly regarded because of its visual power in both urban and nature scenes, exteriors and interiors, and because it was a breath of international air in the then highly domestic world of Finnish cinema. This time I noticed interesting aspects that I had not paid attention to before: the dream sequences with the playing children, the nightmare where Tarini transforms into a big fish, the animated scene with the puppet dog. The plot of the movie (the orphan girl discovering that her long lost father is the wandering street piano player) is rather familiar, but there are delicate touches in the scenes which make this a unique and touching movie to watch at least for lovers of the Finnish cinema.

This was the first film concert in the Helsinki Music Centre, and special care had been taken to build a projection booth and a screen for the event. The visual quality of the screening did not meet theatrical standards, but the sound of the orchestra was magnificent. It is a treat to really hear the ensemble sound and to be able to focus at will on the playing of an individual musician.

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