Friday, September 07, 2012

Puhdistus (2012) / Purge

Puhastus / Utrensning. FI/EE © 2012 Solar Films / Taska Film. EX: Jesse Fryckman, Tor Jonasson, Lone Korslund, Sofi Oksanen. P: Jukka Helle, Markus Selin. D: Antti Jokinen (as Antti J. Jokinen). SC: Marko Leino, Antti Jokinen - based on the novel (2008) [and the play (2007)] by Sofi Oksanen. DP: Rauno Ronkainen - camera: ARRI Alexa - lenses: ARRI Master Primes set & Angenieux Optimo zoom 24-290 - Pro Res 4:4:4 1920x1040 HD - post house: Generator Post (Tuomo Hintikka) - definition of colour in the P3 digital cinema colour space (Pentti Keskimäki) in a Base Light unit. AD: Tiina Paavilainen. Set dec: Kristjan Suits. Makeup: Riikka Virtanen. Cost: Anna Vilppunen. Digital VFX: Fake Graphics. M: Tuomas Kantelinen. Violinist: Viktoria Mullova. "Mis maa se on" (song during the end credits). S designer: Kirka Sainio. S editor: Janne Laine. ED: Kimmo Taavila. C: Laura Birn (young Aliide Truu), Liisi Tandefelt (old Aliide Truu), Amanda Pilke (Zara), Peter Franzén (Hans Pekk), Krista Kosonen (Ingel), Tommi Korpela (Martin Truu), Kristjan Sarv (Pasa), Jarmo Mäkinen (Lavrenti), Jaanika Arum (Katia), Tomi Salmela (militia officer), Panu Vauhkonen (tall militia officer), Taavi Eelmaa (Jaan Berg), Reino Nordin (forest brother), Pia Piltz (girl), Sonja Nüganen (Linda), Anne Reemann (mother), Elmo Nüganen (father), Petteri Pennilä (Andrei). Loc: Estonia. 125 min. Released by Nordisk Film Theatrical Distribution with Swedish subtitles by Carina Laurila-Olin. 2K DCP of the Finnish-spoken version viewed at Tennispalatsi 1, Helsinki, 7 September 2012 (day of premiere).

Sofi Oksanen's Purge has been a unique cultural phenomenon first as a play and a novel, then as an opera, and now as a movie. Purge the novel is a bestseller which is also a work of art of high quality. The acclaimed, award-winning novel is being translated into 41 languages, and it has been well received in France, among other countries. Purge is about the tragedy of Estonia during the Soviet occupation in 1945-1991, personified in the life of Aliide Truu. The time frame of the novel is from the 1930s to 1992. It is the story of three generations of oppressed women.

There were no press screenings of Purge the movie until the big gala launching of it a week before the premiere. Finnish critics recognized this as a warning signal: the movie might be a turkey which will be marketed by heavy advertising with no bad reviews to hamper its way. However, Finnish film critics were positively surprised, and Purge received good reviews.

Usually I am the only spectator left in the cinema at the end of the end credits. This time, hardly anybody left the biggest cinema of Finland, Tennispalatsi 1, which was quite full. And exceptionally, even minutes after the end credits had disappeared from the screen, groups of viewers still remained in their seats. Clearly Purge had made a deep impression. I predict the movie will be a crossover hit with a slowly expanding one year long theatrical life.

Strengths of the movie: the dramatic, dynamic arc of the play and the novel has been adapted successfully into the movie, yet it never has the feeling of a filmed play. There is a gripping power and a tension which is powerfully resolved in the conclusion.

The performances of Liisi Tandefelt, Laura Birn, Amanda Pilke, and Krista Kosonen are great. The ensemble of the women works well together, and the switch from Laura Birn's young Aliide to Liisi Tandefelt's old Aliide is convincing.

The story has been successfully rethought as a moving image narrative. The opening image of the distant plume of smoke in the cold winter air introduces a mystery. When the image is repeated in the conclusion we know what it is all about. The concept of the purge is expressed in the recurrent image of the bare back of a tortured protagonist in the bathtub.

Drawbacks of the movie include: it is impossible to relate to the male characters, all of whom carry aspects of the cynical slimeball, even, unintentionally Hans as portrayed by Peter Franzén. The male actors don't seem to take their roles seriously. The score music drags slightly, and even the violinist Viktoria Mullova is not able to salvage it. The sexual violence of the movie is grossly emphasized and will probably hamper the commercial success of what is essentially a women's story.

This weekend I was watching four Soviet Estonian propaganda movies in which basic truths about the fate of the country were turned upside down. Yet the Soviet propaganda movies were executed in a sober fashion, and surprisingly, in Valge laev, the capitalist West as it appears in Sweden was fairly and perhaps even idealizingly portrayed. In Purge the movie there is not the faintest effort to portray the enemy in a sober or understandable fashion. They are monsters, and Purge the movie has aspects of a horror story.

"The better the villain the better the movie" said Alfred Hitchcock. Even in his anti-Nazi propaganda film Lifeboat he presented a complex Nazi character. Because of his believability the Nazi character was much more ominous and dangerous and the propaganda message (we the Allies must unite and keep alert) more urgent. (Yet Lifeboat failed as propaganda, as did the Soviet Estonian propaganda movies.) 

Purge the novel is a masterpiece of Finnish literature because of the author Sofi Oksanen's talent, devotion, passion, and sense of urgency in every detail. Purge does not belong to the language-driven = untranslatable cases of Finnish literature which is why Purge has become an international phenomenon in literature.

I'm still digesting Purge the movie and while I appreciate it as a powerful experience I'm still trying to determine what is exactly the contribution of the director Antti Jokinen. Certainly there is the irresistible drive and the ability to create memorable visual motifs. The soul, the essence of Sofi Oksanen's novel I recognize in the performances of the female leads, but how about the artistic depth and balance of the whole?

In the visual quality of the cinematography the restrictions and limitations of the 2K digital intermediate are recognized. There is a lot of handheld camerawork, and the nature looks slightly denatured. The bleak quality of the imagery is intentional and in the service of the concept of the movie.


Antti Jokinen has directed music videos among others for: Jolanda Adams
Aika: Up And Away.
Aikakone: Magiaa. 1998
Kelly Clarkson
Celine Dion
Da Buzz: Let Me Love You
Dr. Alban
Samuli Edelmann: Valoista kirkkain. 1995
Samuli Edelmann & Sani: Sonetti 18. 1997
Wyclef Jean
Grace Jones vs. Funkstar Deluxe: Pull Up To The Bumper.
Anssi Kela: Milla. 2001
Leningrad Cowboys: many
Maarja: Candle + Candle Remix
Jore Marjaranta: Miten pelko lähtee
Bryan McKnight
Miisa: All Or Nothing
Nightwish: Nemo. 2004
Place 2 Go: Higher and Higher
Place 2 Go: Save It For Somebody Else
Sash!: With My Own Eyes
Sash!: Adelante
Sash!: Colour The World
Sash! & Tina Cousins: Just Around The Hill + Dance Version
Selma: All Out Of Luck
Will Smith
3Some: Merry-Go-Round. 1998
Shania Twain
Stratovarius: The Hands Of Time. 1993
Vintiöt: Eesti Aerobic. 1995
Anna Vissi: Everything I Am
Westlife: Unbreakable

No comments: