Thursday, January 31, 2013

The State Hermitage

Государственный Эрмитаж, The Palace Embankment, Dvortsovaya plochad 2, Saint Petersburg - by the River Neva, near the beginning of Nevsky Prospekt, facing the Alexander Column. Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 10.30 till 18.00, Sunday from 10.30 till 17.00. Visited on Thursday, 31 January, 2013.

Wikipedia: "The State Hermitage [gəsʊˈdarstvʲɪnɨj ɪrmʲɪˈtaʂ] is a museum of art and culture in Saint Petersburg, Russia. One of the largest and oldest museums in the world, it was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great and has been open to the public since 1852. Its collections, of which only a small part is on permanent display, comprise nearly three million items, including the largest collection of paintings in the world. The collections occupy a large complex of six historic buildings along Palace Embankment, including the Winter Palace, a former residence of Russian emperors. Apart from them, the Menshikov Palace, Museum of Porcelain, Storage Facility at Staraya Derevnya and the eastern wing of the General Staff Building are also part of the museum. The museum has several exhibition centers abroad. The Hermitage is a federal state property. Since 1990, the director of the museum has been Mikhail Piotrovsky. Of six buildings of the main museum complex, four, named the Winter Palace, Small Hermitage, Old Hermitage and New Hermitage, are partially open to the public. The other two are the Hermitage Theatre and the Reserve House."

I spent a day at the Hermitage - over seven hours, that is, almost for the entire duration of the opening hours. The people at the Finnish Institute had advised me to buy a ticket in advance online to avoid queues, which I did. As I arrived among the first ones the queues were not that long anyway, but it could very well have been otherwise. The ticket offices are efficient.

I smiled when I saw the sign to the "little" garderobe - for 1400! There was three times that much room in the big garderobe. The next time I visit the Hermitage in winter I must remember to take indoor shoes. The rooms are warm, and you spend the whole day walking. Also next time I won't wear a jacket. A single shirt is enough. And perhaps a light backpack. During the day I took two coffee breaks at the Hermitage Café. There are several cafés, and one of them is especially good. There are also many bookstores, and one of them is clearly the best.

I had prepared in advance by studying a good compact guide:

The State Hermitage Guide. Compiled  by Tatyana Mamayenko. Edited by Yelena Dianova and Olga Fesoseyenko. Edited by the Organizing Committee: Mikhail Piotrovsky, Georgy Vilinbakhov, Vladimir Matveyev, and Yevgeny Fiodorov. Texts by 48 experts. Saint Petersburg: The State Hermitage Museum, 2000.

I would have made some purchases at the bookstores, but closing time came too soon. Afterwards, I have been studying the website which has a comprehensive digital collection. ("Welcome to the Digital Collection, the new virtual gallery of high-resolution artwork images from the State Hermitage Museum.") It is good for fact-checking but the images do not convey the aesthetic impact of the originals. Maybe it's intentional, but the visual quality of the artworks on the website is underwhelming.

In the Russian language, the floors are called the first, the second, and the third floor, which is also the way we say it in Finnish. In the English language they are called the ground floor, the first floor, and the second floor, which is confusing at first.

The place is huge but reasonably easy to navigate. The staff is big, knowledgeable and helpful. There are intelligent senior people guarding the treasures in a benign atmosphere.

The key to the navigation is to be aware of the room numbers at all times. Room 100 (Ancient Egypt) is a good starting point on the first floor.  Room 202 (Medieval Italy) is good for starting the exploration of the second floor, and room 325 (French 19th century - room 326 which would normally be the starting point was closed today) on the third floor.

I like the Russian way of celebrating art in the country's finest palaces. There were many school classes and guided tours there all day long. When I entered the Renoir room it was empty. The next moment there were two big groups with guides there, and when I left, it was empty again. The rooms are so vast that they don't feel cramped even when they are full with people.

The sense of history is powerful. When I looked out of the window of the third floor of the Winter Palace towards the magnificent Dvortsovaya Square I was thinking about Eisenstein and how he staged the storming of the Winter Palace in his film October. Now the Winter Palace is being stormed daily by art lovers of the world.

I hadn't visited the Hermitage in 40 years, and then it was just a couple of hours on a conducted tour. It was a bit like Alexander Sokurov's movie The Russian Ark, yet not, however, like the breaking of the record of how fast one can run through the Louvre in Godard's Bande à part.

I managed to scan half of the collections on display, with moments of reflection every now and then. The Hermitage is a place to visit many times.

My complete listing of the rooms which I managed to visit this time is beyond the jump break.

Some of my favourites included: 
1. Matisse: in three rooms, with a fine wit of observation and a bold sense of colour.
2. Three skylight rooms with Spanish and Italian masters (a favourite: Palma: Apostles at the Virgin's Tomb - looks magnificent in this room)
3. The Hermitage is the place to go for those who love the four big R's: Rubens, Rembrandt, Renoir, Rodin. Favourites: Rembrandt: The Return of the Prodigal Son, Renoir: Dans le jardin, and Rodin: Le Poète et la Muse.
4. Much of the art of ancient Greece survives as duplicates made in ancient Rome - the Hermitage provides an epic survey into those centuries. The collection of the coins with images of the emperors is touching, and a reminder of the words of the Christ: "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's". There is also literally a coin with the image of Julius Caesar in the collection.
5. Towards the end of the visit I saw The Black Square by Kazimir Malevich. It was like a shot of vodka after a heavy dinner with many courses. We were perfect strangers watching it with a jolt, and we all started to smile and laugh. In the previous room we had seen busts by Bourdelle (Beethoven, etc.).

I also smiled at the hedonistic bias in some of the rooms (245, 331). Tolstoy would have disapproved of such art.

In rooms 323-325 I detected possible roots for some of the historical quality paintings of the Finns Edelfelt and the teenage Schjerfbeck. They had studied the French academic masters closely.

The quality of presentation is world class, of course. From this viewpoint my favourite rooms are the skylight rooms and the halls with reliefs and sculptures. The sum is bigger than the parts even when the parts are as magnificent as this. Some rooms with Dutch masters are dimly lit; perhaps there is a reason for this.

Since the digital transition I have become more sensitive to seeing art, also in museums. Seeing a painting covered with reflecting glass is like making love with an ill-fitting condom. There is not much annoyingly reflecting glass in the Hermitage; the worst instance is Picasso's Two Sisters trapped in a glass booth like Eichmann in Jerusalem. As a rule at the Hermitage one can admire the naked surface or the work protected by non-reflecting glass.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Bullet train to Saint Petersburg

Since December 2010 there has been a high speed train from Helsinki to Saint Petersburg. This TGV (train de grand vitesse) is called Allegro, and it has proven even more hugely popular than was expected. The trip only takes three and a half hours (3:36'), and the scheduling is excellent. The first train leaves at 5.12 am in Helsinki.

In 2011 Russians declared that they have had enough of turning back time and decided to stay in the daylight saving time (DST) all year long. This is understandable, because there are more time zones in Russia than anywhere else - sixteen.

Thus, while there is only a time difference of one hour in principle, the current winter time difference between Helsinki and Saint Petersburg is two hours. Which is why it is already 10.48 local time when the train arrives in St. Petersburg.

On the Allegro train, before crossing the border to Russia, it is possible to change currency to rubles at the best price, better than Forex. There is no wireless network on the train, and an internet widget functions only on the Finnish leg of the journey.

The last train leaves St. Petersburg at 20.25 and arrives in Helsinki 22.01. Very nice: after a full day in St. Petersburg you can still spend a full night in Helsinki.

I have been invited by The Finnish Institute in St. Petersburg to give a lecture to the opening of an exhibition of Finnish silent films called The Fatal Look, beautifully curated and produced by Mr. Kai Vase of KAVA (National Audiovisual Archive / Finland).

I was prepared that there would be an audience of five, maybe one or two of them Russians. But the auditorium was full, and almost all were Russians. There is currently a vivid interest in Finland in Saint Petersburg, and even the popularity of studying the Finnish language is growing. The audience is intelligent and knowledgeable, and there are many questions and interviews. It would have been too late to catch the evening train after the lecture, and the Institute, foreseeing this, has arranged me a hotel in the same block.

We are in the center, at Bolshaya Konyushennaya, within a walking distance of many of the city's attractions. I have a big lunch in the relaxed atmosphere of the Barcelona Tapas Bar (quick, good quality, a lot to eat, good value for money) and dinner at the elegant Arka Restaurant, both on the Bolshaya Konyushennaya. Next morning I have a full Russian style breakfast at my hotel, the Nevsky Hotel Grand. The wireless network at the hotel is perfect.

I dedicate the second day to a visit to the Hermitage. It is quite close, but I manage to do the "flanirovat po Nevskomu" - be a flaneur on the Nevsky Prospekt - on my way there. It's a perfect day for the Hermitage - gray and thawy and slushy outdoors. St. Petersburg drivers are no gentlemen even on the Nevsky Prospekt. It would be a good idea to wear gumshoes on days like this. After the closing time of the Hermitage I have time for a quick salmon salad at the attractive Grand Café Literaturnoe whose emblem is the image of Pushkin. The Pushkin Museum, situated in his final apartment, is nearby on the embankment of the river Moika. I like the music selections in the cafés and restaurants I visited. No junk playlists here.

The taxi takes me to the evening traffic jam and across the Litenyy Most (Litenyy Bridge) to the Finland Station. I'm thinking about Edmund Wilson's classic book To the Finland Station. The station is still there, the name remains the same, and more than 20 years after the fall of the wall there is still a Ploshad Lenina (Lenin Square) around the railway station.

It's 40 years since I last visited the city, then called Leningrad. I participated in a conducted tour, affordable for a poor student. Now, thanks to the Allegro bullet train, the trip to Saint Petersburg is faster than to our summer place at Saimaa. The temptation is great to make a next visit soon.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

DocPoint Vanishing Point: Rose Lowder

DocPoint Vanishing Point, Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 26 Jan 2013.
Curators: Mika Taanila, Sami van Ingen. In the presence of Rose Lowder.

Mika Taanila: "Born in 1941, the French filmmaker Rose Lowder travelled the world from an early age after her parents’ work. Later on her studies took her between Lima, London and Paris."

"Educated as a painter and a sculptor, she moved on to filmmaking in 1976 with encouragement from Jean Rouch. She had gathered experience in filmmaking in the 1960’s, when she worked as an assistant editor for the BBC to pay for her studies."

"Lowder’s works have a markedly handcrafted feel to them and her films are loaded with sensitivity. She is considered to be one of the most innovative characters in structural film. She calls her technique, in which she shoots films frame by frame, as “knitting inside a camera”."

"The films in her Bouquets series make up the core of her oeuvre. They are impressionistic 60 second documentaries about places she has particular interest in. These include shots from organic farms and macrobiotic centers in France, Switzerland and Italy."

"Voiliers et coquelicots provides powerful romanticism from Marseille in the form of boats and poppies. In Les Tournesols we see sunflowers wobbling with every frame having a slightly different focus point in a static landscape."

"Jardin du soleil and Sous le soleil reflect in the blinking of solar panels. Jardins du Marais is a tremoring momental lapse from the Loire-Atlantique natural park while  Rien d’ extraordinaire takes us to the garden of a Swiss hotel."

"Habitat is simply a film about frogs and Jardin du sel depicts the manufacturing of sea salt. The final episode Sources has an organic farmer’s vegetable paté in the starring role." (Mika Taanila | translation by Juha Nurminen)

Les Tournesols, 1982, 3 min, silent - "En faisant reposer l'image sur des éléments extraits de la réalité filmée, inscrits successivement sur la bande, il est possible d'obtenir une fluidité d'agencement des constituants visuels de l'image. Tout en gardant l'avantage de la mobilité des éléments graphiques, Les Tournesols tente de faire gagner une certaine stabilité à l'ensemble de la représentation spatio-temporelle. Dans ce film, la mise au point est successivement réglée image par image, selon une série de partitions sur des plantes spécifiques situées à différents endroits de plusieurs champs de tournesols contigus. Les petites unités de photogrammes, enregistrées les unes après les autres, apparaissent, simultanément sur l'écran, lors de leur projection, sous forme de diverses configurations induisant des mouvements insolites. La relative stabilité de l'image amena aux recherches qui conduirent à la série des Scènes de la vie française. Les Tournesols et Les Tournesols colorés peuvent être également projetés ensemble, côte à côte en double projection." (Rose Lowder) - The French word says it all: sunflowers turn with the sun. They seem to tremble and dance in time-lapse photography.

Bouquet 1, 1995, 1 min, silent - "Filmed on the Mount Ventoux, Vaucluse, from the peak (1912 m) to the Grozeau spring. Amongst yellow poppies and various mountain flowers, people eat their lunch, scramble or cycle up the slopes leading to the summit where they are greeted by the sale of local products: organic épautre, the local ancient form of wheat, and coloured candies." (Rose Lowder) - Flash edit, superimposition, a richness of images, a richness of colours. The letters of the words identifying the movie appear one by one.

Bouquet 2, 1994, 1 min, silent - "Filmed near the village of Brantes, amongst other things, a school cycling party passing through fields of flowers on the borders of Vauculse and Drome". (Rose Lowder) - A bombardment of shots of gentle pastoral views, the flowers of the meadows, poppies, with a moment of calm, and then flashing on again.

Voiliers et coquelicots, 2001, 2 min, silent - "Little is necessary for everything to appear differently. The date, the hour, the weather, the space's layout, one's glance or presence of mind... can make everything change. The boats sail out of the Vieux port in Marseille to be amongst the poppy fields." (Rose Lowder) - Flash edit and superimpositions of sailboats and poppies, accelerating into flicker, colour changes, thistle.

Bouquets 21–30, 2001–05, 14 min, silent - "Bouquets 21-30 (2001-2005) is a part of the ecological Bouquets series, consisting of one-minute films composed in the camera by weaving the characteristics of different environments with the activities there at the time. The filming basically entails using the film strip as a canvas with the freedom to film frames on any part of the strip in any order, running the film through the camera as many times as needed."
    "Thus each bouquet of flowers is also a unique bouquet of film frames."
    "Bouquet 21 (2001) was filmed in a tiny paradise which took years to create, La Baraque, an organic farm situated 2 kms from Aujac, in the far corner of Gard, sandwiched between Lozère and Ardèche."
    "Bouquet 22 (2001) meanders over the mountain pastures near the summit of the Grand Perron des Encombres, not far from a macrobiotic centre at Bettaix, in the Belleville Valley, Savoie."
    "Bouquet 23 (2001) shows Terre Vivante, a centre focusing on ecological issues, located on a site of fine cultivated, or wild, flower and vegetable gardens strewn over a hillside amongst ponds. Open to the public, it organizes numerous events and publishes excellent books and a magazine."
    "Bouquet 24 (2001) was filmed in a pastoral setting around Beausite, an inn which provides organic meals in its preserved 1912 ambience, in Chemin-dessus, on a mountain slope 7 kms from Martigny, Switzerland."
    "Bouquet 25 (2002) was shot in Cantal, around Le Tahoul, the Falgoux Valley and the Aulac Pass. This reel mingles the few flowers uneaten by the Salers cows with the village residents going about their affairs."
    "Bouquet 26 (2003) was filmed in the middle of the animals of a small farm, La Terra di Mezzo, perched on hillside terraces of Liguria, Italy."
    "Bouquet 27 (2003) moves around a macrobiotic centre in St. Gaudens, Haute-Garonne. Amongst glimpses of the surrounding countryside leading to the village of St. Béat, it shows its residents working on the land, repairing items or making rice biscuits."
    "Bouquet 28 (2005) takes place on a farm, Mas de Cocagne, Aujac, Gard, which has developed from an abandoned coal-mining area into an agricultural-ecological site over twenty-five years. The topics include abundant floral vegetation, the Château d'Aujac on the hillside in the distance, work on the farm, builders erecting a roof, washing being hung up and to end a contented frog amongst the pink water lilies."
    "Bouquet 29 (2005) shows a very isolated 18th c farmhouse, Fra Boyer, on the borders of the Forêt Domaniale de l'Oule, near Montmorin, Hautes-Alpes. The floral vegetation attracts numerous butterflies and other flying insects, the family grow vegetables and collect the cherries while two donkeys help themselves."
    "Bouquet 30 (2005) treats the farm of Le Lanteïrou, Champagne, near Les Vastes, Haute-Loire. One sees the cows, the farmer by the house, a member of the family in the bed he has built, complete with bedside lamp, under a nearby tree, and an elderly neighbour walking between the two white chairs set up at either end of her field amongst the vegetable patches." (Rose Lowder)

Habitat, 2006, 8 min 30 s, silent - "In this film we move away from the notion of a work preconceived to adjust the visual characteristiques of the image in order to allow us to enter the temporal dimension of a pond full of frogs. In front of such creatures that tend to be elusive there arises a question of more general interest as tohow can one record moments that are meanful, how can one render visible,present a moment that is alive and connect the items forming the different recorded moments up together?" (Rose Lowder)

Bouquets 11–20, 2005–09, 14 min, silent - "Bouquets 11-20, filmed in Italy, Switzerland and France, was delayed by the weather and a series of related technical/aesthetics incidents. The ten little films (1 minute or 1440 frames each, with the exception of 23 frames or nearly a second more for n°16), continues the work begun with the series Bouquets 1-10 and 21-30. This consists of weaving in camera visual aspects of the filmed reality in order to bring into existence specific features of the cinematographic image, hopefully placing us on a boundary outside the traditional rôles of description or abstraction."
    "Content-wise the graphic-aesthetic procès is related to social/economical politics and philosophy. Nearly every civilization disappeared due to mayor environmental issues and we are, in heading in that direction, repeating history. R.L."
    10 Bouquets, each one minute long, all filmed at ecological sites.
Bouquet 11 - Oasis de la Roche Bleue, near Plaisans, Drôme
Bouquet 12 - Farm de la Mhotte, Saint Menoux, Allier
Bouquet 13 - Site agroécologique de la Baraque, Aujac, Gard
Bouquet 14 - Le Vieil Eclis, Asserac, Loire-Atlantique
Bouquet 15 - Azienda Agricola Cascina Piola, Serra-Capriglio, Asti,
Nord Monferrato, Piedmonte, Italy
Bouquet 16 - Silvai Confiture (jam), Haute Bléone, Prads, Basses-Alpes
Bouquet 17 - Hôtel –Pension Beau-Site (Label écologique européen), Chemin sur Martigny, Switzerland
Bouquet 18 - Farm de Crozefond, Saint Aubin, Lot et Garonne
Bouquet 19 - Les Jardins du Marais, Parc Naturel Régional de Brière, Hoscas, Loire Atlantique
Bouquet 20 - Site agroécologique de la Baraque, Aujac, Gard." (Rose Lowder)

Jardin du soleil, 2010, 2 min, silent - "Beginning with natural light, an element that played a major role in cinematographic developement, the subject of the film evolves around solar panels in two different places, Cascina Piola, Capriglio, Asti, in Italy, and Le Vieil Eclis, Asserac, in Loire-Atlantique, France. We find ourselves in the middle of sparkling light, exposed to the wind, like the butterflies, the bees and the little clouds." (Rose Lowder)

Jardins du Marais, 2010, 2 min 30 s, silent - "This magnificent garden, in the Parc naturel régional de Brière, in the middle of the presqu’île de Guérande, Loire-Atlantique, in France, covers over a hectare of land. It’s vegetable garden, ornamental garden, small forest and two ponds, make up a continuously evolving space, but also a visual mumble - jumble of wild life that draws one to delve into it in order to explore it cinematographically. In honor of Annick Bertrand-Gillen et Yves Gillen, the creators of this munificent space in the middle of nature." (Rose Lowder)

Rien d’extraordinaire, 2010, 2 min, sound - "Just a glimpse of this beautiful spot around the Hôtel - Pension Beau-Site on the Chemin sur Martigny, Switzerland, situated in a hamlet surrounded by snow-capped mountains." (Rose Lowder) - with the Chilean dancer Pauliva Alemparte

Jardin du sel, 2011, 16 min 11 s, sound - "The production of sea salt flower is a process of concentration-saturation of sea water in order to form crystallization. The agriculture character of the activity is evoked by the term "salt garden". Six poetic pictures, five based on the sun, the wind and the sea, while the last rests on a small park left fallow. Music by François Alexis Degrenier." (Rose Lowder) - The film is like abstract expressionism, accompanied by musique concrète. - The salt crystals are viewed almost as abstractions.

Sous le soleil, 2011, 3 min 28 s, sound - "In the heat of summer solar panel reflections blend with butterflies on flowers and a little bird eating the mulberries." (Rose Lowder)

Sources, 2012, 5 min 22 s, sound - "Sources originated from Thomas the Gardener’s wish to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his making vegetable pâté. Leaving urban life behind him in order to renew a relationship with the land, Thomas started up an organic garden in the beautiful area of hot and cold Springs, lakes and rivers, in the upper Aude Valley." "In the middle of making his pâté, the gardener is surrounded, as the water sources of the Aude river rush by, by one of the sources for his recipies, the flowers and spices from his garden." (Rose Lowder) - The gleaming water.

All from France, 16 mm, from Light Cone, total duration 75 min

Splendid colour, a strong feeling for nature and the presence of the sun. The senses are reawakened by the structural changes of time lapse, fast edit, and superimposition. While the music by François Alexis Degrenier is fine in the four last films of the show, the silent ones are even more intensive; maybe the music distracts slightly from the visual intensity. Most of the movies are ultra rapid, even with flicker, but there are moments of almost still life, like Habitat, about the frogs in the pond.

Fine 16 mm prints with fine colour.

The Gatekeepers

DocPoint, Kinopalatsi 2, Helsinki, 26 Jan 2013

Hannes Nissinen: "The designated task of Shin Bet, the Israeli secret service, is to defend the country from terrorism. In the film by Dror Moreh, six previous Shin Bet directors speak out publicly for the first time about their views on the occupation of the Palestinian territories. The film covers events all the way from the Six-Day War until today’s utilization of unmanned drone planes. The film composes a picture of heavyweight gatekeepers and decision making of the highest level, where everything is carried out by the middlemen."

"Even though the film brings forth the perspectives of the Israeli security leaders, the moral weighing is left for the spectator. The Gatekeepers won the Best Documentary Award in the LA Film Critics Association annual awards." (Hannes Nissinen | translation by Juha Nurminen)

Director: Dror Moreh
96 min, Belgium, Israel, France, Germany, 2012
Original title: Shomerei Ha’Saf
Format: 2K DCP
Photography: Avner Shahaf
Editor: Oron Adar
Sound: Alex Claude
Production: Dror Moreh, Estelle Fialon, Philippa Kowarsky / Dror Moreh Productions, Les Films du Poisson, Cinephil
Additional info: The Gatekeepers in nominated for the best feature documentary Academy Award in 2013.

In Hebrew with English subtitles

Featuring Ami Ayalon, Avi Dichter, Yuval Diskin, Carmi Gillon, Yaakov Peri, and Avraham Shalom.

Wikipedia: "The Gatekeepers (Hebrew: שומרי הסף) is a 2012 documentary film by director Dror Moreh that tells the story of the Israeli Shin Bet from the perspective of six former heads of Israel’s secretive internal security service. It combines in-depth interviews with archival footage and computer animation to recount the role that the group played in Israel’s security from the Six Day War to the present. It is nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 85th Academy Awards."

"In interviews, Moreh explains that he was inspired to make the film after watching Errol Morris’s Academy Award-winning documentary The Fog of War. Having just completed a film about former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, he came to realize the decisive role that the Shin Bet had played behind the scenes for the past forty years. Ami Ayalon was the first head of the Shin Bet to agree to be interviewed for the film."

"The problem, according to Moreh, was to get the “Gatekeepers,” or former heads of the Shin Bet to agree to appear on camera to discuss their work. Given the secretive nature of the organization, none of them had ever done this before, and many of the topics he hoped to discuss with them were either classified or highly sensitive."

"Despite this initial difficulty, Moreh contacted one of the “Gatekeepers,” Ami Ayalon, who had since been elected to the Knesset for the Labor Party and was serving as a Minister without Portfolio in the Security Cabinet. Much to his surprise, Ayalon not only agreed to participate, he also helped Moreh contact the other surviving former heads of the Shin Bet: Avraham Shalom, Yaakov Peri, Carmi Gillon, and Avi Dichter. The sixth participant in the film, Yuval Diskin, was still serving as head of the Shin Bet at the time."

"Though all the men agreed to participate, some were reluctant initially to discuss various incidents associated with their careers. Shalom, for instance, did not want to discuss his role in the hijacking of the 300 bus and summary execution of two of the terrorists, though the ensuing scandal ultimately led to his resignation. Over time, however, and with careful prodding, he agreed to discuss even that, and it now features as one of the film’s seven segments."

"The film consists of seven segments:

1. No Strategy, Just Tactics: covering the emerging role of the Shin Bet from the Six Day War and the occupation of the Palestinian territories.
2. Forget About Morality: about the 300 bus incident.
3. One Man’s Terrorist Is Another Man’s Freedom Fighter: about the peace process following the Oslo Accords.
4. Our Own Flesh and Blood: about Jewish terrorism, including the Jewish Underground and the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.
5. Victory Is to See You Suffer: about negotiations with the Palestinians during the Second Intifada.
6. Collateral Damage: about the assassination of Yahya Ayyash and other prominent Hamas activists.
7. The Old Man at the End of the Corridor: consisting of reflections on the activities of the Shin Bet and their ethical and strategic impact on the State of Israel.

"Though the film follows a loose chronological order, each of these segments also delves into topics such as the controversy surrounding collateral damage, the efficacy of torture, and the morality of targeted assassination. These personal confessions and reflections are among the most powerful moments of the film. Especially noteworthy is Avraham Shalom’s statement that, “On the other hand it's a brutal occupation force, similar to the Germans in World War II. Similar, not identical,” and Yaakov Peri’s statement that, “These moments end up etched deep inside you, and when you retire, you become a bit of a leftist.”"

"The events described in the film are illustrated with archival footage and computer-generated imagery that brings historic photographs to life. An example of this is the computer-generated reenactment of the 300 bus incident, based on photographs and eyewitness accounts. The film's computer animations were created by the French company Mac Guff."

Political and historical documentary film making of the highest order. The Gatekeepers not only presents a compelling view of already existing information, but it is in itself a powerful new fact - that all the six directors of Shin Bet share the basic view, deeply committed to the Oslo Accords, deeply concerned about the current politics of the Israeli government. The final discussion is based on Clausewitz, about true victory as a better political reality. If the policy of the Oslo Accords is not pursued, "we lose the war".

The Gatekeepers is more thrilling than most thrillers. Chronologically, the main story starts during the 1982 Lebanon War when Shin Bet acquired new prominence with its effective methods. The Gatekeepers is also a history of the Palestinian situation until the present. There is a feeling of honesty in the account. I kept being amazed by the revelations, small and great. Among the general observations: "intelligence agencies fail to foresee major events".

The Gatekeepers is also an account of Jewish extremist terrorism (the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the plan to destroy the Dome of the Rock).

In the conclusion, there is no old man at the door. Peace can't be made by military means. There is no alternative to talking. "We do not want a Shin Bet state." "When you see a family suffering, it gets etched deep inside." "We do not want to make the lives of millions unbearable." "We have become cruel to ourselves, as well."

The visualizations of Shin Bet premises and vaults are not documentary records of real facilities, and the "surveillance imagery" is computer generated animation made for the movie.

Visual quality: fine 2K digital for the interviews, compilation quality for the rest.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Kino Concert Turksib with Felix Zenger

Turksib poster by the Stenberg brothers.
VOXPoint - Kinophonic Concert: Felix Zenger & Turksib. Mixed by Teemu Korsipää. DocPoint, Bio Rex, Helsinki, 25 Jan 2013.

Peter von Bagh: "Turksib is the most well-known Soviet documentary film along with Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera. Its topic is the building of a railway between Turkestan and Siberia, which was a crucial project for Central Asia and the Far East and a massive mobilization of muscles and machines."

"For Turkestan it marked new means for commerce and communication. The wind of change was blowing everywhere as the country and its citizens eagerly awaited wealth and for the utopia to become reality: this is how things stand, not that well perhaps, but a grand dream is about to come true."

"The style of the film corresponds to the greatness of its theme while still retaining its realistic scope. The portrayal of the building project escalates into an accurate, funny and poetic study of a peasant culture facing a still shapeless tomorrow saturated with technology."

"The intertitles read ”nature is tough, but men and the machines are even tougher.” There is no specific conflict, because things always happen in relation to others. The difference of speed between a camel and a locomotive remains unsolved, and a horse is a permanent reminder of the nobleness and sensitiveness of movement in relation to traditions, nature and the working culture."

"The cinematography embodies the bliss of the archaic material: people untouched by the modern problems, or problems at all. For a fleeting moment, this state of parallel blissful consciousnesses was possible in real socialism. Thanks to Viktor Turin’s film, we get a glimpse of socialism’s finest vision in its original level of experience." (Peter von Bagh | translation by Juha Nurminen)

Finnish beatboxer Felix Zenger takes the stage at VOXPoint, creating  a soundtrack for the silent film Turksib. Zenger forms his own, unique style using only his mouth and the microphone. His music video Beatbox has over 30 million views on YouTube.

Viktor Turin
67 min, Soviet Union, 1929
Format: 35 mm
Script: Viktor Turin, Aleksandr Macheret, Viktor Shklovski, Jefim Aron
Photography: Jevgeni Slavinski, Boris Frantzisson
Production: Vostokkino

A Svenska Filminstitutet / Filmarkivet print of 1527 m /20 fps/ 67 min * original Russian intertitles * svenska texter by Mouissia Modnar * e-subtitles in Finnish by Onni Nääppä.

Revisited a classic documentary... after 39 years. It still is fresh and biting. The political bias in this Soviet film is minimal, and it is still easy to understand why Turksib became a model for both the British documentary school - and the Finnish documentary tradition, although Finland was fiercely anti-Soviet. Heikki Aho and Björn Soldan bought a print of Turksib and studied it devotedly. The influence is obvious in some of their films from the 1930s, including their films for the Finnish wood industry.

The main asset of the film is the power of observation - of the varying locations from the harbours at the Caspian Sea to the snowy mountains of Siberia - of the many occupations and industries including sheep farming, cultivating cotton, and forest industry - and of the epic processes of the construction of the railway with the giant bridges of Chuisky and Irtysh.

The sense of humour is unobtrusive and the account of the conflict between modernity and tradition is without condescension. There is nobility in the ways of the camel drivers, but the railway can make life much easier.

The feeling for nature is impressive - the power of the Samum wind - the importance of the water - the devastating qualities of the desert.

The DocPoint Festival had engaged the hugely popular beat box artist Felix Zenger to create the music. His strong and inventive rhythms fitted the theme of modernity and the machine world very effectively, and the emphasis on the human sound resonated with the feeling for nature and tradition in the movie.

The print from Svenska Filminstitutet is fine, and the translations seemed good, too, to the film famous for the quality of its intertitles.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

DocPoint Vanishing Point: Stan Brakhage 3: The Text of Light

DocPoint Vanishing Point, Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 24 Jan 2013.
Curators: Mika Taanila, Sami van Ingen.
Introduced by Sami van Ingen. 

The Text of Light. 1974. 16 mm; 71 min. Source: Canyon Cinema.

An amazing film - a light show - like a huge art exhibition - consisting entirely of reflections in a glass ashtray.

Like the bottom of the ocean - like stardust in outer space.
Like the clouds in heaven - like the depths of water.
Like frozen cascades.
Macroscopic - microscopic.

Highlighting crystals - highlighting shining surfaces.
Highlighting the glass material - highlighting the quartz crystal cluster qualities.
Like the dusk - like the dawn.
Like Northern lights - like rainbows.
Like embers - like glowing embers - "kuin hiipuva hiillos" = like fading embers.

Like an oil painting - like a watercolour - like an acrylic painting - like a mobile - like tapestry - like kinetic art.
Like film noir imagery - nocturnal streets glistening in the dark after the rain.
Illuminations - transformations.
Constellations - nebulae.
Deep sea creatures beyond the reach of light.

Textures of light.

A fine print of a film which it must be a nightmare for the projectionist to focus. There was trouble in the beginning but it was settled with no harm done.

The House I Live In (2012)

HDCam viewed at DocPoint, Maxim 2, Helsinki, 24 Jan 2013

Anton Vanha-Majamaa: "At the end of the 1960s Ronald Reagan, president of the United States, declares a war on drugs. A battle which is to last for decades begins, resulting in millions of prisoners and burning through billions of dollars without being able to take down the drug markets. Are the measures the right ones? Are the politicians asking the right questions?"

"With his first-hand approach, director Eugene Jarecki reviews these questions in a similar fashion to the series The Wire which unraveled the American society from the micro level up to the top thrones of power. Tying ethnicity into drug policies offers many new issues to bite on. A power game is found behind the criminalization of drugs, by which the hegemony of the white majority is attempted to be preserved. A comparison to the Holocaust is justifiable." Anton Vanha-Majamaa | translation by Asta Mykkänen

Amerikkalainen huumesota (Yle TV1, Dokumenttiprojekti, 30 Sep 2013)
Director: Eugene Jarecki
105 min, United States, 2012
Format: HDCam
Photography: Sam Cullman, Derek Hallquist
Editor: Paul Frost
Sound: Matthew Freed, Timonthy McConville, Arthur R. Jaso
Production: Eugene Jarecki, Melinda Shopsin
Additional info: Executive Producer: Brad Pitt

Wikipedia: "The House I Live In, directed by Eugene Jarecki, is a 2012 documentary film about the War on Drugs in the United States."

"As America remains embroiled in conflict overseas, a less visible war is taking place at home, costing countless lives, destroying families, and inflicting untold damage upon future generations of Americans. In forty years, the War on Drugs has accounted for more than 45 million arrests, made America the world's largest jailer, and damaged poor communities at home and abroad. Yet for all that, drugs are cheaper, purer, and more available today than ever before."

"Filmed in more than twenty states, The House I Live In captures heart-wrenching stories from individuals at all levels of America’s War on Drugs. From the dealer to the grieving mother, the narcotics officer to the senator, the inmate to the federal judge, the film offers a penetrating look inside America’s longest war—a definitive portrait revealing its profound human rights implications."

"The film recognizes the seriousness of drug abuse as a matter of public health, and investigates the tragic errors and shortcomings that have meant this symptom is most often treated as a cause for law enforcement, creating a vast machine that largely feeds on America’s poor, and especially on minority communities. Beyond simple misguided policy, the film examines how political and economic corruption have fueled the war for 40 years, despite persistent evidence of its moral, economic, and practical failures."

The name of the film comes from the song "The House I Live In" (1942, originally in the musical revue Let Freedom Sing). The short film, the Academy Award winning The House I Live In (1945), targeted against anti-semitism, was inspired by it, and in it the song was sung by Frank Sinatra. During the end credits of Eugene Jarecki's film we hear the Paul Robeson interpretation (1948) of "The House I Live In".

One of the most remarkable and thought-provoking films of the recent times in any category.

A bold, brave and devastating documentary film with an epic ambition. Drugs are terrible, but the war on drugs is equally terrible - inefficient and destructive. David Simon: "What drugs have not destroyed the war on them has".

25% of the world's prisoners are in the U.S. Prisons have become an important business.

Policemen get substantial bonuses for arrests. It is easiest to make arrests on drug crimes. Policemen can also earn money from seizures of assets.

When Nixon launched the war on drugs, two thirds of the resources were targeted to rehabilitation, to the treatment of addicts. Now the rehabilitation programs are often the first that get cut.

There is a personal framework to this documentary. The director Eugene Jarecki's family escaped Europe and family members, "we the lucky ones", were thus saved from the Holocaust. He starts to investigate his black nanny's family, following the leads of the drug tragedy and discovering how drug laws are used to destroy families and communities.

A film of a high intellectual complexity and a full command of the means of non-fiction, including interviews and archival footage. The newly shot footage looks fine, and there is naturally a compilation quality in much of the rest.

The Miners' Hymns

The Miners' Hymns on Bill Morrison's website (see also beyond the jump break).
HDCam at DocPoint, Maxim 2, Helsinki, 24 Jan 2013.

Taru Kasandra: "Director Bill Morrison doesn’t need words to describe what everyday life is like in an English mining community. This mostly black-and-white film shows both social and political aspects of the mining industry using rarely seen archive footage. While the narrative is conveyed visually, the film does not remain a silent experience. A deeply powerful accompaniment has been composed by Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson."

"Coloured aerial footage and moments from the labour strikes of 1984 act as a striking reminder of what our contemporary culture of consumption is built on. It is touching to witness a man at the pit head kissing his employer-issued head torch, drawing his last breath of fresh air, before he descends into the dark, cramped, dusty mine." Taru Kasandra │ translation by Jouna Keränen

Director: Bill Morrison
52 min, United Kingdom, 2011
Photography: Steve Desbrow
Editor: Bill Morrison
Sound: Jacques B. Pedersen
Production: David Metcalfe / Hypnotic Pictures, Forma

A majestic, noble, haunting requiem to the formerly magnificent English mining community in Durham County in North East England. In the framing images a helicopter flies above, and captions alert us to former sites of collieries (= coal mines): Ryhope, Silksworth, Hylton, Monkwearmouth...

They now only exist in memory. The body of the movie is a compilation of wonderful historical footage about the mining community and also about the legendary Durham Miners' Association and the Durham Miners' Gala which includes a miners' service in Durham Cathedral. This is the background to the title of Bill Morrison's film.

The historical footage ends with violent demonstrations. The policemen beat demonstrators during 1984-1985 when the British mining industry was crushed by the Thatcher administration.

There is no spoken sound in the film but a strong score by Jóhann Jóhannsson with aspects of a requiem and an emphasis on brass instruments - brass bands were an essential part of the culture in the mining communities.

While watching this movie with admiration I was not able to relate to its slightly melancholic and resigned atmosphere.

The visual format: HD, alas, but the digital transfer has been performed from excellent film elements with a good artistic sense.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

DocPoint Vanishing Point: Stan Brakhage 2: The Pittsburgh Trilogy

DocPoint Vanishing Point, Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 23 Jan 2013
Stan Brakhage 2: The Pittsburgh Trilogy.
Curators: Mika Taanila, Sami van Ingen.

Introduced by Sami van Ingen.

eyes. 1971. 16 mm; 35’00
Deus Ex. 1971. 16 mm; 33’00
The Act of Seeing with One’s Own Eyes. 1971. 16 mm; 32’00
All silent.
Total screening time: 100 min, source: Canyon Cinema.
Rated 18.

The Pittsburgh Trilogy: three films about the raw immediacy of perception.

Stan Brakhage's police film called eyes introduces interestingly features that have become part of the language of television's police series and police films (first cutting edge, then even mainstream) - including the recent End of Watch which incorporated mobile phone video footage. The handheld look, the blurred vision, the lights at night, the theme of surveillance, the lack of a point of reference in many shots, ocean waves and neon waves, factual footage shot in a way that borders on abstraction. The police team faces people in calamity, in extremis.

Deux Ex is shot at different departments of a hospital, including the emergency room and the maternity ward, and shows surgeons at work. We see fragmented images of patients, surgeries, people in wheelchairs, reflecting surfaces. These films are about limited vision, partial views, changes of perspectives. Babies are born and put on special care. A patient is operated on, and details are seen in extreme close-up.

The Act of Seeing with One's Own Eyes is shot at the morgue. Unceremoniously we get to see autopsies, much of it in extreme close-up. These people have reached the end, the final destination, the spirit is no longer there, the vibrant quality of life is gone. Corpses are turned, the heads and the stomachs are opened, the brains and the intestines are removed, the skin of the face is peeled. The corpses are nothing but lifeless bundles. Also the exposed sex organs are dead. Only the shells remain, only the peels of the human being. The subject-matter is the same as in splatter films, but there is no shock, no frisson here. These are images about professionals at work, it's all matter-of-fact. The concepts of "beauty / ugliness" have no relevance here, and neither has the concept of "sublime" (in the meaning of something that overwhelms or transcends our capacity of perception). It's about something basic, primordial about the physical existence. Seeing the physical body without life makes me think differently about life.

Common to these studies of perception is that there is a sense of learning to see for the first time, like a little child.

All films were seen in good prints from Canyon Cinema.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Hilton! Täällä ollaan elämä

Hilton! DocPoint Opening Gala, Bio Rex, Helsinki, 22 Jan 2013. English subtitles in the beginning of the movie.

The Festival opened by Ulla Bergström - Apollo Prize awarded to the editor Tuula Mehtonen, by Erik Söderblom and Erkki Astala.

The opening film introduced by the producer Markku Tuurna and the director Virpi Suutari who welcomed many of the people featured in the film and the crew on stage.

Erja Dammert in the DocPoint Catalogue: "The roughly beautiful Hilton! gives the viewer a glimpse of life in a modern society, a life that young persons lead. Janne, Toni, Mira, Pete and Make live in a tenement owned by a youth foundation. Their attempts to take control over their own lives have been in vain. Toni says that it is gruesome to see oneself as socially excluded, but apparently he is just that. Despite of these facts, the group sticks together. Make, the father figure, has his freezer full of food: nobody has to leave his place hungry."

"Life gives each one a quantum of care, and the main characters find a little something to lean on in the world. Make cleans his apartment and by doing so, he also cleans the mess that his life has turned into. A baby girl Luna is born and fills her young mother with love. Hope lives in the heart of the tenement and its inhabitants." Erja Dammert | translation by Emmi Kivinen

Virpi Suutari
71 min, Finland, 2013
Format: 2K DCP
Photography: Heikki Färm
Editor: Jussi Rautaniemi
Sound: Olli Huhtanen
Production: Markku Tuurna / Filmimaa

Featuring: Janne, Toni, Mira, Pete, and Make.

The screening was dedicated to Make, who died today.

The title Hilton is the ironic nickname given to the tenement house maintained by Itä-Helsingin nuorisosäätiön vuokratalo (the social security system).

The young drop-outs: a devastating situation, a vicious circle, an evil chain reaction. In fiction film we know Wild Boys of the Road, A Passport to Life, Sciuscià, Los olvidados...

Virpi Suutari goes inside the tenement house and we get to follow a group of young people in situations of amazing intimacy. It is incredible that we can get this close to a terrible reality. We see how they live, and as the film proceeds, we get to learn about how they have come this way. On the other hand, a child is born. A recurrent mofif: invoices are torn in pieces, and pieces of paper fly around like snowflakes.

There is a good sense of structure and rhythm in the film.

The ethical dilemma in movies like this is extreme. Literally it's a matter of life and death, a play with fire. The protagonist of Reindeerspotting died. One of the protagonists of this movie is now dead, too. I frankly do not know what to think about non-fiction films with protagonists who may not be equipped to defend themselves. Yet I fully trust in the ethical standpoint of Virpi Suutari and Markku Tuurna.

The visual quality: low definition, sometimes extremely low definition (mobile phone video footage), used as a means of expression.

DocPoint Vanishing Point: Stan Brakhage 1

DocPoint, Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 22 Jan 2013.

The screening was introduced by Sami van Ingen.

Sami van Ingen (DocPoint Catalogue): "Stan Brakhage (1933–2003) was a visionary artist who made over 300 films. They explore our perceptions of our outer and inner worlds as well as the viewing process itself."

"Brakhage’s persistent and uncompromising working methods generated masterpieces, which give novel perspectives on film as a medium and on us humans as psychophysiological entities."

"Brakhage 1 consists of short but powerful pieces. The themes alternate between the conflicting emotions set forth by a birth of a child (Window Water Baby Moving) and the mysticism of a deserted city (Visions in Meditation #2) all the way to an analysis of death and existence (Mothlight)."

"An appropriate finale for the screening is the last piece of work from the artist, which he scraped on celluloid with his nails while lying on his deathbed. It has been said that watching Chinese Series is like a dash through a bamboo forest."

"The well-known Pittsburgh-trilogy by Stan Brakhage documents the everyday work of police patrols, surgeons and pathologists. The main character is the human body: the constraint of its movements (by the police in eyes), fixing it up (by the surgeons in Deus Ex) and studying it after the spirit has already parted (in The Act of Seeing with one’s own eyes, which takes place in the morgue)."

"The trilogy explores the metaphysical questions of our existence related to chaos, suffering and dying while avoiding witty remarks or pointing fingers. Brakhage displays the carnal side of human existence almost laconically but at the same time he is not afraid to approach his subject matter with thorough fervor. After one transcends the initial sensations of horror and repulsion, the spectator may even see the poetic beauty in a skinned human body."

"Stan Brakhage’s profound interest towards the qualities of light can be perceived throughout his work, but in The Text of Light it becomes the main theme. This film is art by light. He studies how light refracts as it travels through different materials and, at the same time, how light alters its form during the cinematic processes."

"As a starting point Brakhage uses William Blake’s idea of seeing the world in a grain of sand, even though instead of a grain of sand he uses an ashtray he borrowed from Gordon Rosenbaum’s office." (Sami van Ingen | translation by Juha Nurminen)

The Wonder Ring. US 1955. 16 mm; 6’00 - visions of urbanity from the train
Window Water Baby Moving. US 1959. 16 mm; 12’00 - childbirth in extreme close-up, a Courbetian vision of the origin life, raw sensuality, yet tender and respectful
Cat’s Cradle. US 1959. 16 mm; 6’00 - fast edit about the cat's view of the world
Mothlight. US 1963. 16 mm; 3’00 - a masterpiece made without a camera by moth's wings exposed on film - breathtaking, like seeing a huge art exhibition flashing by in three minutes
Here I had to leave for the DocPoint Opening Gala, which overlapped.
The Dante Quartet. US 1987: 35 mm; 6’00
Visions in Meditation #2. US 1989. 16 mm; 17’00
Delicacies of Molten Horror Synapse. US 1991. 16 mm; 8’00
Interpolations 1-5. US 1992. 35 mm; 12’00
Black Ice. US 1994. 16 mm; 2’00
Chinese Series. 2003. 35 mm; 2’30
Total duration: 74’30
All prints silent, all except Mothlight from Canyon Cinema. The quality of the prints is good, the colour looks right.

Walking towards Bio Rex I was thinking about the silence which is perfect for Stan Brakhage: the films are so intensive, and need to be seen on film and without music. They fill up the senses just like that.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

"Enemmän funkista, Reino!" Design Helsinki-elokuvissa / Design in Helsinki Films

Helsingin Kaupunginmuseo, 13 Jan 2013

"Enemmän funkista, Reino!"
Design Helsinki-elokuvissa

“Enemmän funkista, Reino!” -näyttely johdattaa Helsingissä 1930–60-luvulla kuvattujen elokuvien visuaaliseen maailmaan. Näyttely avautuu Helsingin kaupunginmuseon päärakennuksessa Sofiankatu 4:ssä 15.2.2012.

Muotoilu ja arkkitehtuuri vaikuttivat vahvasti elokuvien ilmeeseen luoden erilaisia mielikuvia kaupunkikulttuurista. Elokuviin suunnitellut asut, kuvitteelliset kodit ja ympäristöt kommentoivat todellisuutta, liioittelivat ajan ilmiöitä ja luotasivat tulevaisuutta mielikuvituksen keinoin.

Näyttely nostaa esiin myös kotimaisten elokuvien vähemmän tunnetut tekijät, lavastajat ja tähtien glamourin luoneet pukusuunnittelijat. Samalla tutustutaan designammattilaisten arkeen Helsingin suurilla elokuvastudioilla.

Tiedon ja kauneuselämysten lisäksi “Enemmän funkista, Reino!” -näyttely tarjoaa hilpeän nostalgiaretken menneeseen Helsinkiin. Valokuvien, esineiden ja pukujen ohella elävä kuva on monimuotoisesti esillä. Näyttelyä täydentää oheisohjelma kaikenikäisille.

Näyttely on tehty yhteistyössä Kansallisen audiovisuaalisen arkiston KAVA:n kanssa ja se on osa Helsingin designpääkaupunkivuoden ohjelmaa.


"Enemmän funkista, Reino!" / Design in Helsinki Films (official English texts)

7 December 2011

Design in Helsinki Films
15 February 2012 to 13 January 2013

Production: Helsinki City Museum

Partner: KAVA – National Audiovisual Archive, WDC project

Curator, exhibition texts, exhibition architecture: Minna Santakari

Lighting and graphic design for the exhibition: Mia Kivinen

Exhibition committee: Jan Alanco, Anna Finnilä, Tiina Heino, Eva Packalén, Marja Pehkonen, Sari Saresto

Suomen Filmiteollisuus Oy collection/KAVA
Suomi-Filmi Oy collection/KAVA
Fennada-Filmi Oy/YLE
Kurkvaara-Filmi Oy/MTV 3
Jörn Donner Productions Oy
Filminor Oy
Helsinki City Museum


The exhibition reveals the visual imagery of films shot in Helsinki between the 1930s and the 1960s. Design and architecture had a huge impact on the imagery of films, as they allowed the creation of different urban atmospheres.


The visual imagery of films is created by set and costume designers and, in the spirit of teamwork, also by camera operators and directors. Many interiors used in films were designed and built for just one particular film.

While few Finnish film projects have the resources to build entire exterior milieus, new imaginary environments may be created for films by selecting locations inventively, modifying them and combining them creatively.

The work of costume designers is a commentary on the fashion and dressing style of the time. Costumes also reflect each character’s position and personality. Costumes, hairstyles and make-up can turn an actress into a bag lady or a film star. Nothing human is alien to the imagined reality of films.


Directed by Erkki Karu, The Scapegoat (1935) is based on a comedy play by the pseudonymous Agapetus, set in a department store named Sampo. The film was shot in the Stockmann department store on Aleksanterinkatu, which was completed in 1930.

Designed by architect Sigurd Frosterus, the interiors of this commercial palace are dominated by a covered light well, surrounded by galleries on four storeys. Up-to-date information on partitioning, interior design and technology had been acquired on field trips to European department stores. The department store’s art deco and functionalist-style interior was designed by Stockmann’s own drafting office under the supervision of interior designer Werner West.

The leading character of The Scapegoat, a young cosmetics saleswoman Irja Salo (Ester Toivonen), gets into trouble after selling a lady some black eyebrow powder as lipstick. However, thanks to the saleswoman’s resourcefulness and sense of humour, things turn out fine in the end. Irja Salo gets engaged to the director of the department store, Mr Vaara (Jaakko Korhonen) himself.

The Scapegoat was shot in various departments of the store. In addition, set designer Karl Fager designed some interiors, including Irja Salo’s home, which were built at Suomen Filmiteollisuus Oy’s studios in Kamppi.

Did you know that you are on the old premises of Stockmann’s trading firm right now? Designed by architect Lars Sonck, this commercial building was completed in 1913.

Photographs: Suomen Filmiteollisuus Oy collection/KAVA

Irja Salo was played by Ester Toivonen, who was crowned Miss Europe in 1934.

Saleswoman Irja Salo (Ester Toivonen) makes a fatal mistake by presenting eyebrow powder as lipstick.

“ their stylish uniforms, the young ladies parade against a backdrop of polished birch and walnut tree” (Birger Damstén: Stockmann sadan vuoden aikana [A Hundred Years of Stockmann], 1961).

The walls of the staircases on Heikinkatu, today’s Mannerheimintie, were a deep green, and the Keskuskatu side was dominated by a warm orange hue.

The clever Irja remains cheerful in the face of mishaps.

Customers are unpredictable – also in the furniture department.

“You mustn’t let a good guy go,” thinks Irja, unwittingly flirting with the department store director (Jaakko Korhonen).

The Dallapé Orchestra and young female dancers provide entertainment as Irja and her mystery beau celebrate.

Irja’s evening elegance does not suffer from her eagerness to sit on any table.

Going to work after a party is not easy...


Director Valentin Vaala’s film Hulda of Juurakko (1937) centres around parlour maid Hulda, whose Helsinki is a city of masters and servants, two different circles of life concretely set apart by the Pitkäsilta bridge. But the city also offers many opportunities: alongside her maid’s work, Hulda studies and gets a university degree, setting her sights on becoming a Member of Parliament.

Hella Wuolijoki’s play Hulda of Juurakko was probably inspired by Miina Sillanpää’s (1866–1952) fabulous, varied life story from maid to minister. Hulda’s (Irma Seikkula) place of service, MP Soratie’s (Tauno Palo) home, is located at Kaisaniemenkatu 5 in Kruununhaka. The magnificent art deco building was designed by architect Martti Välikangas in 1927 and demolished in 1972.

The film’s exterior shots placed Soratie’s residence on the topmost floor of the building, which in reality was the home of architect J. S. Sirén. The film was of course not shot in the architect’s home – the interiors were built in a film studio as was customary at the time. The great set designed by Ossi Elstelä, the cultural home of a bachelor and Member of Parliament, is a delicious mix of Nordic classicism, art deco and functionalism. Among other things, Elstelä was inspired by the interior of the Parliament House.

Photographs: Suomi-Filmi Oy collection/KAVA

Kaisaniemenkatu 5 (Martti Välikangas, 1927) captured in the 1930s.

Judge Soratie (Tauno Palo) at home. The interior set was built in the Haaga community hall.

Fresh from a party at Restaurant Kämp, these Members of Parliament have offered Hulda a place to stay the night. Hulda has come to Helsinki looking for a job. Pictured on the left is Ali-Lehtonen (Ossi Elstelä), holding Hulda’s plywood suitcase.

Soratie’s cook Miina (Aino Lohikoski) provides ambitious Hulda with practical advice and moral support.

Hulda spends her evenings studying diligently.

Judge Soratie’s aunt Conny (Anni Hämäläinen, on the left) fondly remembers the suffragettes.

Hulda, or Irma Seikkula’s stuntwoman, washing the windows of Judge Soratie’s residence on the top floor of Kaisaniemenkatu 5.

The servant and master at the doors befitting their social class. The same home could be accessed via separate staircases to avoid unwanted encounters with servants.

A crisis at the judge’s home library – a book about the Renaissance has gone missing. According to a story, the judge’s secretary (Lea Joutseno, on the left) landed the role thanks to her appropriate jacket and skirt suit.

Hulda asleep at her books. Many working-class women considered the ending of the film too conventional: Hulda ends up married to her master, Judge Soratie.

“How do you even manage to keep that dress on?” Judge Soratie asks Hulda, expressing disapproval of her revealing evening outfit. “Purely thanks to your self-restraint,” she answers.


In the 1930s, the construction of Töölö continued towards the north and Taka-Töölö. When the construction of the blocks around Töölöntori Square began, the classicist ideals of residential construction in Etu-Töölö gave way to the simpler shapes of functionalism. This was the start of the type of functionalism characteristic of Töölö.

The elegant street views were captured afresh in Valentin Vaala’s film Surrogate Husband in autumn 1936. The female protagonist of this comedy scripted by Hilja Valtonen, young secretary Irmeli Venes (Tuulikki Paananen), is forced to pretend she is married, because her future employer Director Markkula’s wife (Hilja Jorma) fears that the man will be charmed by unmarried women. The resourceful Irmeli finds a suitable fake husband, Reino Lahtinen (Tauno Palo), from a nearby restaurant.

Töölö was particularly popular among film-makers in the late 1930s. The streets of the city’s trendiest residential area often witnessed film crews. The way home was not long either as many film-makers and actors had moved to the area.

The set of Surrogate Husband, designed by Ossi Elstelä, boldly used the art deco idiom to an aptly glamorous effect. The interiors were built in summer 1936 in the Haaga Community Hall, which Suomi-Filmi used as its studio at the time.

Photographs: Suomi-Filmi Oy/KAVA

Shooting Surrogate Husband in Töölöntorinkatu in autumn 1936. The office of the Markkula & Poika company, a central location in the story, was situated at Töölöntorinkatu 6 (D. Dahlberg, 1937).

Applying for the position of secretary, Irmeli Venes (Tuulikki Paananen) meets her future employer’s son (Helmer Kaski) in Töölöntorinkatu. The background shows the heir’s automobile and the restaurant at Töölöntorinkatu 7.

Director Markkula’s wife (Hilja Jorma) wants her husband’s (Uuno Laakso) young secretary to be safely married.

“Mrs Lahtinen”, secretary Irmeli Venes, working late hours under the watchful eyes of the director’s wife and son. The office interior was created as a set.

The impressive interiors of surrogate husband Reino Lahtinen’s (Tauno Palo) villa were built in the Haaga Community Hall. Set designer Ossi Elstelä created a “poor man’s Hollywood” in the forests of Haaga.

Songstress Suokuma (Regina Linnanheimo) receives luxurious guest accommodation at Director Markkula’s residence. This interior set was combined with exterior shots of Munkkiniemi Manor.



Directed by Yrjö Norta and shot in 1939 during the last peacetime summer, SF Parade captured the anticipation of the Helsinki Olympic Games. The Olympics were postponed to 1952 by the war, but this was not yet known when the film was shot.

The film proudly presents the sights of the modern capital, particularly targeted at Olympic tourists. Dressed in a stylish uniform, Jopi Rinne (Joel Rinne) drives the glass-roofed tourist bus from one sight to another. Our radiant and professional guide, Ansa Koskeli (Ansa Ikonen), skilfully uses the microphone in three languages: German, English and Finnish. The just-completed Olympic Stadium is one of the key destinations of the tour, along with the Parliament House.

In the film, fair-haired Ansa is the subject of even greater interest than the sights: vying for her attention are both chauffeur Jopi and cabbie Tanu Paalu (Tauno Palo). Ansa chooses Tanu thanks to his musical skills and amorous duet singing, as the audience might have guessed. The strong fictional love story between Ansa and Tauno had already been going on for a couple of years and would continue for a long time...

Photographs: Suomen Filmiteollisuus Oy collection/KAVA

The massive Parliament House (J. S. Sirén, 1931) was one of the key destinations on the sightseeing tour.

Tanu Paalu (Tauno Palo) whistling at maiden Ansa with the just-completed Post House (Jorma Järvi, Erik Lindroos, 1938) in the background.

The tourist bus has stopped in front of the Parliament House for filming. On the east side of Mannerheimintie are the VR (Finnish Railway) depots (Bruno Granholm, 1898).

A film crew at work in front of the Parliament House. The lighting technician aiming the large reflector ensures that the stars of the film will shine their brightest on camera.

The film being shot in summer 1939 at the corner of Restaurant Elite (Jalmari Peltonen, 1938) in Eteläinen Hesperiankatu, with curious passers-by admiring Ansa Ikonen’s on-camera presence.

Ansa and Tanu dreamily singing the theme song of the film, each by the window of their home. Unbeknownst to each other, the future lovers seem to be neighbours as well.

In the film, Ansa is first standing in front of a painted backdrop scenery in the home interior in the studio (photo), but the scene is soon cut to a real city view, shot by the window of Hotel Torni (photo). Tauno’s view was shot by the window of the adjacent hotel room. This was another way of fooling the audience (photo).


The luxurious villa of the wealthy Rygseck family is the central site of Inspector Palmu’s Error. A suitable villa for this 1930s epoch film was found in Eira at Engelinaukio 8. This late Art Nouveau building was designed by Jarl Eklund in 1914.

Set designer Aarre Koivisto designed the interiors of the villa according to the film’s needs. Built at Suomen Filmiteollisuus Oy’s Liisankatu studios, the villa’s interiors were a multi-level, extravagant labyrinth that seemed to have no exit in the distressing atmosphere of the closing scene.

The look created for Elina Pohjanpää (playing Irma Vanne) is reminiscent of Ansa Ikonen in her 1930s films. Women’s costumes for the film were designed by Laura Saalas, with Bure Litonius as the costume specialist.

Elements from Suomen Filmiteollisuus’s set, furniture and prop warehouses ended up in the Finnish Broadcasting Company’s possession after the company went bankrupt in 1965. This means that a significant proportion of the furniture and other items often seen in films made by Suomen Filmiteollisuus are still being used as props for television programmes and films.

The old serving table (on the right) off which Aimo Rykämö (Pentti Siimes) unsuspectingly serves a poisoned absinthe drink to Alli Rygseck (Aino Mantsas) is part of the Finnish Broadcasting Company’s valuable collection.

Photographs: Suomen Filmiteollisuus Oy collection/KAVA


Consisting of six films, the Suominen Family film series kicked off with The Suominen Family, directed by Toivo Särkkä in 1941. The life of this fictional Helsinki-based family had earlier been followed as a popular radio play series. In the difficult times of war, demand for films about steady family life was great.

The mishaps and games of the energetic Suominen children provided the films with some much longed-for, alleviating humour. Olli, the son of the family, played by Lasse Pöysti, a 12-year-old evacuee from Sortavala, became the hero of the films. Pipsa, the perky little sister, was played by Maire Suvanto. Thanks to big sister Elina (Sirkka Sipilä), the films also featured a dose of entertaining young love.

The lives of the children are kept on the right track by the discipline and gentle care provided by mother Aino (Elsa Turakainen) and father Väinö (Yrjö Tuominen). The widow grandmother (Eine Laine) and assertive but soft-hearted maid Hilda (Siiri Angerkoski) are also part of the family, whose life centres in and around the home at Topeliuksenkatu 1. The building was designed by Jalmari Peltonen in 1937.

Photographs: Suomen Filmiteollisuus Oy collection/KAVA

The radio was an important source of information and entertainment in the 1940s.

In Olli Suominen’s Stunt (1942), the family has new mouths to feed: twins Seija and Martti. In reality, these war orphans were adopted into director Orvo Saarikivi’s family shortly before the film was made.

Mother (Elsa Turakainen) making pancakes in the home interior built at Suomen Filmiteollisuus Oy’s studios in Kamppi. Father (Yrjö Tuominen) and maid Hilda (Siiri Angerkoski) look on.

Father Väinö (Yrjö Tuominen) playing with the twins on the sofa.

Mother Aino and Hilda sealing windows. Behind the window of the home is a painted street scene.

Olli (Lasse Pöysti) playing Finnish baseball on the Stadium field, late for his pea soup. In the film, he checks the time on the railway station tower. Such excellent vision is perfectly possible in films.

Olli and Pipsa (Maire Suvanto) chatting and playing as peacefully as siblings tend to do.


The protagonist in Hannu Leminen’s film Marriage, Inc. (1942), architect Paavo Kannas (Tauno Palo), runs an interior design company called My Home Corner. He is planning to hire a female assistant, but is weary of having constant trouble with attractive young ladies. This time, a modest appearance is required to land the job. Beautiful Hilkka Salo (Birgit Kronström) hides behind a pair of glasses to meet the requirements.

Director/set designer Hannu Leminen designed the architectural agency interiors at SF’s studios. A glass brick wall was a popular set element in early 1940s films.

Photographs: Suomen Filmiteollisuus Oy collection/KAVA


Directed by Valentin Vaala, A Hired Fiancé (1945) sees interior designer Meeri Holvi (Lea Joutseno) designing elegant homes for her wealthy clients. Meeri also becomes a client herself: she orders an escort, a “hired fiancé”, for a high-society party celebrating a luxurious interior designed by Meeri. While the vivacious professional helps her demanding clients select up-to-date home textiles and fine light fixtures, she is unable to choose between the interesting men around her.

Joutseno’s character in Vaala’s 1940s comedies was an active woman aiming at a certain independence and firing off unconventional lines, but at the end of the film she falls back in line – that is, into the arms of a man.

Comedienne extraordinaire Lea Joutseno, director Vaala and the pseudonymous Tet (Kersti Bergroth) penned several film scripts together, including A Hired Fiancé and Dynamite Girl. Set designer Erkki Siitonen designed the stylish interiors for A Hired Fiancé at Suomi-Filmi’s Munkkisaari studios.

Photographs: Suomi-Filmi Oy collection/KAVA

Meeri (Lea Joutseno) negotiating with her boss and ex-husband Aarno Rauta (Tauno Majuri) in his stylish office.

Meeri hurrying to her workplace, architectural studio Ar-To.

A Bakelite telephone is an important tool for a professional woman.

Boxing hero Urho Luomus (Kullervo Kalske) has been allowed to visit Meeri. Behind the set window we can see a painted “view of Töölö”.

Clients assessing lighting options in Meeri’s cosy home.

Boxer Luomus (Kullervo Kalske) seeing the lady home. Independent Meeri lives at Topeliuksenkatu 31 with her maid. The building was designed by Arvo O. Aalto and Yrjö R. Vuorinen in 1937.

Hired fiancé Erkki Anger (Tapio Nurkka) at work in Helsinki by night.

High-society lady Pippi Masa (Rauha Rentola) has found some male company around Messeniuksenkatu and Päivärinnankatu. The photo shows hired fiancé Erkki Anger (Tapio Nurkka) on the right and Director Rauta (Tauno Majuri).

The evening elegance of Meeri Holvi (Lea Joutseno). The costume designer for this film is not known. Suomi-Filmi’s studios in Munkkisaari had their own sewing shop.


Director Valentin Vaala was a master of city comedy. In his 1940s films, Helsinki is not a city suffering from want and consecutive wars but a modern arena of fast urban life. Vaala’s film Dynamite Girl was finished in 1944.

The dynamite girl, Director Reijonen’s daughter Marja (Lea Joutseno) mostly moves in luxurious seaside Helsinki. Getting bored with her dull life, secure future and endless parties at the city’s best restaurants, Marja takes a momentary interest in the exciting lifestyle of the dynamite robbers ravaging the city. The energetic young woman infiltrates the criminal gang as “the Creeping Shadow of Telakkakatu” and gets to know a completely different city at secret meeting places in the harbour.

However, the romantic interest of young police officer Esko Vuoristo (William Markus) becomes Marja’s fate.

Photographs: Suomi-Filmi Oy collection/KAVA

The classicist city palace at Stenbäckinkatu 24, designed by architect Väinö Vähäkallio, functions as the city home of the director’s family.

Marja has a lunch date at Hotel Klaus Kurki’s terrace restaurant at Bulevardi 2 with a magnificent view of Helsinki city centre.

Marja’s family villa was located in Kuusisaari. A popular filming location at its time, shipowner Henry Nielsen’s villa was later demolished.

The closing scene takes place in the magnificent Restaurant Fennia (Mikonkatu 17), where Marja settles the score with the dynamite robbers and the handsome police officer.

Marja’s admirer, police officer Vuoristo (William Markus, on the right) watching her dance with artist Kari Honka (Tapio Nurkka).


Producer/director Toivo Särkkä compiled a real dream team for his film The Vagabond’s Waltz. Taking place in a manor setting, the film was scripted by Mika Waltari and shot by Felix Forsman. The sets were designed by Hannu Leminen, the score composed by George de Godzinsky and the costumes designed by Bure Litonius, whose expertise in epoch costumes and uniforms was particularly relied on. The leads were played by Ansa Ikonen and Tauno Palo.

Herttoniemi Manor acted as the home of Countess Helena (Ansa Ikonen). The manor interiors, designed by Hannu Leminen to satisfy even the biggest appetite for romance, were built at the Suomen Filmiteollisuus studios in Kamppi. The wartime audience was intoxicated by the abundance of set and costume materials. The making of such a film was made possible by SF’s extensive set and costume warehouses. The costumes in SF’s wardrobe were the responsibility of Fiinu Autio, a veteran of several films.

Finished in 1941, The Vagabond’s Waltz became immensely popular. A number of romantic epoch films were shot in the years shadowed by war.

Photographs: Suomen Filmiteollisuus Oy collection/KAVA

“Lackey” Arnold (Tauno Palo), who turns out to be a baron, and Countess Helena (Ansa Ikonen) in their rococo costumes.

The unruly Helena sits on her father’s (Oscar Tengström) desk and wraps him around her little finger.

Designed by Hannu Leminen, the manor interiors were built at the Suomen Filmiteollisuus studios at Fredrikinkatu 54 on former military premises. Shown on the right is a heavy film light equipped with wheels and reflectors.


Although Finnish production of fictional films started in 1907 with The Moonshiners, it did not get strong and professional until after sound films were established in the mid-1930s. The two largest film companies, Suomen Filmiteollisuus Oy and Suomi-Filmi Oy, already had their own well-organised studios and premises in the 1930s. The companies employed a large number of film professionals from dressmakers and directors to actors and propmen.

Production and audience numbers increased from the 1930s onwards. It was a golden era for cinemas as well. Even the war years did not estrange the audiences from Finnish films as many other forms of entertainment were restricted in the austere wartime conditions. The peak was reached in 1953–1956, a period that saw the premiere of 102 domestic feature films.

The increased popularity of television in the early 1960s and the big turning point in the lifestyle of Finns led to a crisis for the domestic film industry. The largest film company, Suomen Filmiteollisuus Oy, ceased operations in 1965. Many film professionals moved to television, most of them to the Finnish Broadcasting Company. People started making films in a new way – among groups of friends, with small crews. Films were shot on streets and in homes, without a studio system. The new generation of filmmakers told their stories in new ways.

Photographs: Suomen Filmiteollisuus Oy collection, Suomi-Filmi Oy collection/KAVA


Matti Kassila’s film version (1955) of Father’s New and Ex, a comedy play by Serp, writer Seere Salminen, is driven by the protagonist’s midlife crisis. A blazing workplace romance has made architect Mauri Pekanpää (Tauno Palo) divorce his wife Armi (Ansa Ikonen), the mother of his children, and marry his vampish secretary Babs (Hillevi Lagerstam).

The architect’s family has stayed in its old home, which emanates old cultural values; the ornamental grand piano in the sitting-room is surrounded by inherited furniture. “A modern young wife wants a modern home,” the architect says about his new wife, who has furnished their home in Kaivopuisto with a drinks cupboard, abstract art and up-to-date style. The architect eventually returns to his old wife, and the new wife’s tastes in interior decoration and art become the object of benevolent humour.

Set designer Aarre Koivisto was given a delicious task: to design two clearly different homes with a key role in depicting the values and lifestyles of the film’s leading characters. The home interiors were built at Suomen Filmiteollisuus’s Liisankatu studios.

Photographs: Suomen Filmiteollisuus Oy collection/KAVA

The young couple have bought some trendy lamps, such as the Madame table lamp by Lisa Johansson-Pape. Pictured from the left are MP Juhankoski (Eino Kaipainen), architect Pekanpää (Tauno Palo) and his new wife Babs (Hillevi Lagerstam).

The architect instructing his young assistant (Pirkko Karppi) at the office.

The architect between his old and new wife. The bay window of the old home’s sitting-room provides a view of Töölö Church. The view was created by a painted backdrop behind the set window in the studio.

The sitting-room in the old home with Mother (Ansa Ikonen), son Matti (Veli Palonen) and daughter Kaarina (Elina Pohjanpää).

Father (Tauno Palo) and daughter (Elina Pohjanpää) in front of their home at Topeliuksenkatu 3 B.


Perho House (Perhonkatu 11, 1957), designed by Aarne Ervi, was selected as the home and studio of Gas, Inspector Palmu!’s deranged artist Kurt Kuurna (Pentti Siimes) thanks to its magnificent spiral staircase, which seems to be suspended in mid-air.

Set designer Ensio Suominen’s perception of the bohemian interiors of the artist’s studio was built at Fennada-Filmi’s studios in Kulosaari. The set featured fresh and impressive elements, such as Harry Bertoia’s Diamond and Bird chairs, which went on to become classics of design. An important role was also played by Tapio Wirkkala’s K10-11 foot lamp, nowadays a coveted design classic, which provided the lighting for the dark closing scene.

Directed by Matti Kassila, Gas, Inspector Palmu! (1961) is based on Mika Waltari’s 1939 crime novel Kuka murhasi rouva Skrofin? (Who Murdered Mrs Skrof?). Mrs Skrof’s home was an impressive block of flats at Merikatu 7, designed by architect Runar Finnilä in 1926.

The staircase of Mrs Skrof’s home was also built at the Kulosaari studios. The centre of the two-storey staircase set, fully open on the other side, had room for a lifting platform for a film camera. This enabled the unobstructed filming of actors walking up and down the stairs.

Photographs: Fennada-Filmi Oy/YLE

The staircase of Perho House (Perhonkatu 11, 1957), designed by Aarne Ervi. Photo: RTM.

Set designer Ensio Suominen’s perception of Kurt Kuurna’s studio. Pictured from the left are Virta (Matti Ranin), Kaarlo Lankela (Saulo Haarla), Kurt Kuurna (Pentti Siimes) and Inspector Palmu (Joel Rinne).

Kokki (Leo Jokela) and Virta prevent Kurt Kuurna’s desperate intentions on the staircase of Perho House.

Kurt Kuurna’s studio provides a generous view of Helsinki rooftops, created using a photograph backdrop. The light source in the studio is the Akari 10A rice paper lamp, designed by Isamu Noguchi in 1951.

The former tennis halls by Lars Sonckin tie were converted for film use in 1951. The photo shows director Matti Kassila in the middle and set designer Ensio Suominen leaning on the railing on the left.

The film being shot in Laivanvarustajankatu in spring 1961. Director Matti Kassila in the middle. Camera operator Esko Nevalainen looking into the viewfinder of the Debrie camera on the left.


In Matti Kassila’s third Palmu film (1962), the design of the new decade is also evident at the Senaatintori police station: wearing a fashionable suit even in the tightest spots, young Judge Virta (Matti Ranin) commands his team through the intercom. Even the changed curtains in the office herald the beginning of a new era. Pictured here are Inspector Palmu (Joel Rinne, on the right) and Detective Kokki (Leo Jokela).

The Inspector Palmu stories were based in the Senaatintori police station, known to all Helsinki residents at the time. Helsinki’s police headquarters did not move from Senaatintori to Pasila until 1982.

The exterior shots in Palmu films were shot on location, in the middle of the real city. Most of the interiors were built in the studio, as was customary at the time, and so were the offices and corridors of the police station.

Photographs: Fennada-Filmi Oy/YLE


The protagonist of Matti Kassila’s The Scarlet Dove (1961), doctor Olavi Aitamaa (Tauno Palo), suspects his wife Helena (Gunvor Sandqvist) of deceitful intentions. The doctor shadows his wife and her supposed lover (Matti Oravisto) through the autumnal Helsinki.

The leading character’s dark, nightmarish frame of mind is reflected by the dark side of the city – the night-time streets of Kallio. The doctor’s nocturnal anguish culminated in the empty plot at Castréninkatu and Kirstinkatu, where the wooden houses of a worker housing company Terho had just been demolished. The home of the mysterious young lady he had just visited no longer existed.

The big change that was taking place in the Kallio district at the time of filming – the demolition of the wooden houses and the intense construction of large blocks of flats – was captured in the film as part of an imaginary nightmare.

Photographs: Suomen Filmiteollisuus Oy collection/KAVA

Doctor Aitamaa (Tauno Palo) shadowing his wife by the Havis Amanda fountain.

The stylish canopy of the Olympic Pier at South Harbour (Aarne Hytönen, Risto-Veikko Luukkonen, 1952) conceals the doubtful doctor’s progress.

Doctor Aitamaa comes within hearing distance of his wife (Gunvor Sandqvist) and her supposed lover (Matti Oravisto) at the Rowing Arena (Hilding Ekelund, 1939).

The exterior of the home of the doctor’s new acquaintance, “the Red Dove” (Helen Elde), was shot in Vallila (Virtaintie 7).

“I have no view...” says the young lady, describing her abode. The interior of the wooden home was built at SF’s studios at Liisankatu 14 according to set designer Aarre Koivisto’s plans.


The home of unemployed inventor Justus (Lasse Pöysti) in an old wooden house in Kallio is condemned. Justus ends up on the street but decides to start up an enterprise of his own: Oy Kaikki järjestyy Ab (Will Take Care of Everything Inc.).

Kolmas linja 17, just being demolished, with Justus (Lasse Pöysti) and another homeless person, Bella (Elina Salo).

Photograph: Fennada-Filmi Oy/YLE


Like many of his contemporaries, director Risto Jarva was interested in city planning and the prospects for cities. Game of Luck (1965) repeatedly contemplates how the rapidly changing Helsinki should be developed. The leading characters dream about city centre blocks enlivened by boutiques and cafés. The protagonist, journalist Jussi (Jaakko Pakkasvirta) visits the station tunnel construction site and roams the demolition site of the Kino-Palatsi cinema.

The great enthusiasm to put up new buildings and tear down old ones also started receiving criticism in the 1960s. While the Kino-Palatsi building and the old Kämp hotel and restaurant were demolished, constructors were obliged to reconstruct Kämp’s façade and the legendary Mirror Room in a way that restored their old appearance. But as the protagonist of Game of Luck says, “city life is more than just façades”.

Journalist Jussi’s office is located on the roof floor of Kampin Autotalo at Fredrikinkatu 46. The building was designed by Eino Tuompo and Veli Valorinta in 1958. The area has long-standing traditions in film-making as Suomen Filmiteollisuus Oy’s studio was located in a former garrison building at Fredrikinkatu 54 in 1936–1945. Hundreds of scenes were shot on sets built in the studio. The red brick garrison building was probably demolished in the late 1950s.

Photographs: Filminoir Oy, Helsinki City Museum


Directed by Jörn Donner, Adventure Starts Here (1965) offers a generous and diverse depiction of old and new Helsinki in the 1960s. The protagonist, architect Toivo Pajunen (Matti Oravisto), and his beloved, Swedish fashion designer Anne (Harriet Andersson), wander around the city in many moods.

The architect and his beloved have highly different conceptions of Helsinki. Anne wonders to herself, “why did I ever come to this depressing little town...”, and Toivo contemplates: “This is my home town. I can’t give you much more than this... Just the scent of the summer morning by the water, the vastness of the square.”

The city is changing fast, and the designer has a strong role in this. However, constructors criticise Toivo for excessive expense and bluntly recommend a change of career. The film links the throes of creating idealistic architecture with the sore points in the architect’s personal life: memories of war and difficulties in his love affair with Anne, an independent and detached modern woman. Architect Pajunen only wants to create “a world as beautiful and pure as the works of Alvar Aalto...” Villa Ervi, the office and home at Kuusiniementie 5 designed by architect Aarne Ervi for his family, served as Toivo Pajunen’s home in the film.

Photographs: Fennada-Filmi Oy/YLE

The costumes worn by elegant Swedish Anne (Harriet Andersson) came from the Balmain fashion house.

The architect takes his sweetheart to see his modest childhood home at the Ruoholahti villas (Lastenkodinkatu 2–10).

This strongly-worded meeting was shot at architect Aarne Ervi’s office in Villa Ervi. The studio wing of the building was completed in the early 1960s.

Villa Ervi’s residential wing was completed in 1950.

Architect Toivo Pajunen (Matti Oravisto) is an admirer of Alvar Aalto’s work. The Uspenski Cathedral and Enso-Gutzeit Headquarters (Alvar Aalto,1961) are shown in the background.


A recurrent subject in 1960s films is the great change in the construction industry and the ethics of contractors’ operations. In Maunu Kurkvaara’s film Open Secret (1962), young architect Pentti Vaara (Jarno Hiilloskorpi) and his senior colleague, architectural studio director Toivo Koski (Kalervo Nissilä) fall out with a developer who wants everything to be efficient. For the client, the main thing is to build “as much as possible for as little as possible”.

Looking at the new high-rise blocks of flats in the Kallio district, Toivo Koski ponders: “Even those are nothing but slums...” In the film shot in early 1962, the architect’s strict gaze was fixed upon the new residential blocks by Kolmas linja and Castréninkatu.

The designers find the hectic schedules and growing profitability requirements unreasonable. Also disappointed in his personal life in many ways, the film’s middle-aged architect ends up committing suicide.

Photographs: Kurkvaara-Filmi Oy/MTV 3

Architect colleagues Toivo Koski (Kalervo Nissilä, on the left) and Pentti Vaara (Jarno Hiilloskorpi) supervising a vast building site in Niemenmäki.

Young architect Vaara starts investigating his boss’s fate.

The architectural studio’s secretary (Sinikka Hannula) leaving work on time.

The architect friends (Kalervo Nissilä and Pehr-Olof Sirén) in front of As. Oy Tonttukallio’s terraced houses. Designed by Jaakko Laapotti and Toivo Korhonen, the atrium houses were completed in 1959.

In the film, the interiors of the architect’s home were set upstairs from the Artek shop at Keskuskatu 3. Frustrated Mrs Koski (Kyllikki Forssell) asks the young architect for reasons for her husband’s desperate solution.


In Risto Jarva’s A Time of Roses (1969), according to the official opinion of the History Institute, Finland in 2012 has survived turbulent times and become human-centric and liberal: class boundaries have disappeared and the keyword is progress. However, it emerges that the official opinion has its sceptics.

The home of the protagonist, researcher Raimo Lappalainen (Arto Tuominen), who echoes the History Institute’s views, has been furnished with some top 1960s design: transparent, inflatable plastic chairs (Blow chairs from 1967) and the latest large Marimekko patterns designed by Maija Isola. The air-filled seats play a significant role in the story – the inebriated protagonist, passed out with his face against the chair, is suffocated after a sharp point in his necklace punctures the plastic chair. Researcher Lappalainen’s questionable methods yield tragic results.

The script, set design and editing of the film were carried out by means of teamwork. The interior sets were built in the Pasila Community Hall and at Filminor Oy’s studio.

Photographs: Filminor Oy/??

Raimo Lappalainen (Arto Tuominen) studies the past through the story of an individual. His subject is Saara Turunen (in the picture, Ritva Vepsä), who lived in the 1960s.

Anu Huotari (Tarja Markus) is researcher Raimo Lappalainen’s assistant. The costumes in the film were designed by Saini Salonen.

Anu Huotari (Tarja Markus) has gained additional research material thanks to an exciting piece of equipment.

The inflatable Blow chairs were a central element in the researcher’s home. Set design for the film was carried out by a workgroup consisting of Lauri Anttila, Antti Peippo, Juhani Jauhiainen, Kullervo Kukkasjärvi and Matti Mansner.

The researchers’ friends and family partying.

The photo shows director Risto Jarva in the middle and assistant director Titta Karakorpi to his right.