Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Lakeuksien lukko / [The King of the Plains]

Det hände i Österbotten. FI 1951. PC: Suomen Filmiteollisuus Ab. EX: T. J. Särkkä. D: Matti Kassila. SC: Toivo Särkkä (1947) and Matti Kassila (1950) based on the novel (1920) by Artturi Leinonen. DP: Pentti Unho. AD: Aarre Koivisto. Makeup: Leo Jokela, Olavi Suominen. Hairdos: Vivian Gustafsson, Siviä Friskberg. M: Tauno Pylkkänen. Songs: "Annikan laulu", trad., arr. Ahti Sonninen, also "Saksanpolkka", lyrics Artturi Leinonen. ED: Armas Vallasvuo. S: Taisto Lindegren. C: Aku Korhonen (talollinen / farmer Tuomas Juhonpoika Kantola), Eija Inkeri (Kantolan Annika), Matti Oravisto (Harri Adler), Sven Relander (Carl Erik Adler, Lohikosken patruuna / master of the Lohikoski manor), Heikki Savolainen (Tuomas), Kaarlo Halttunen (Samuli, työmies / worker), Anni Hämäläinen (Kantolan emäntä / mistress), Kalle Rouni (Lohikosken pehtoori / farm manager), Anton Soini (Simuna), Unto Salminen (sea captain Hanell), Ossi Korhonen (provost), Jalmari Rinne (vallesmanni / sheriff), Runar Schauman (maaherra / governor), Reino Kalliolahti (Kantolan Hemppa), Vilho Siivola (Jokiluoman isäntä / master), Veikko Linna (brewery master Hansson), Leo Jokela (Taavetti, farmhand), Pentti Irjala (Samppa), Harri Sinijärvi (Lohikosken puukhollari / bookkeeper). Loc: Seinäjoki (Törnävä manor), Pohja (the Fiskars factory district), Lapua (Tiistenjoki), Alajärvi (the boat sequence), Alajärvi, Kauhava, Lapua (the Kantola dam). Helsinki premiere: 26.1.1951 Tuulensuu – VET A-3475 – G – 80 min. A KAVA print without subtitles viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Pohjanmaa), 6 June 2012.

The story takes place at Pohjanmaa in 1859 when Finland was a grand duchy of the Russian Empire.

For Matti Kassila this is the weakest of his films, and nobody else has ever defended it, but there are things in it that I am fond of. I like the cinematography by Pentti Unho and the location shooting on real Pohjanmaa locations and elsewhere. I like the music by Tauno Pylkkänen including the songs in typical Pohjanmaa style. I like some of the performances such as the antagonists performed by Aku Korhonen and Sven Relander, and the Kantola mistress played by Anni Hämäläinen. Runar Schauman is a believable governor, and Jalmari Rinne a solid sheriff. There is much in the clothes, buildings, vehicles, weapons and furniture that feels authentic. The climactic fight scene of the rivals is realistic (actually Heikki Savolainen's leg was broken). The dialogue is not authentic. The area of Pohjanmaa depicted is bilingual, and at least the upper class would be speaking Swedish, and the spoken Finnish should be in strong Southern Pohjanmaa dialect, but in the movie the entire dialogue is mostly in standard modern Finnish. That is, however, accepted practice.

I like the ambition of the story towards true historical drama. It is based on reality, the story of the expansion of the Wasastjerna family, who were pioneers of modern agriculture. Their ruthless expansion was stopped by ill-fated investments in factories and finally the devastating crop failure of 1867. They are an essential part of Pohjanmaa history. Interesting themes of the industrial revolution, the brewery business, maritime transport, the devastation of the frost, the conflict between the rich masters of manors and the independent farmers, the tradition of the yöjalka (the official tradition of nighttime visits to the daughter of the house), etc. are present, but they could have been used much more efficiently.

The safety print is good, clean, intact, and without blemishes, and looks like it might have been struck from the nitrate negative.

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