Friday, May 20, 2016

Kämppä / [The Shack]

Pertti Melasniemi (Pera) and Ilkka Kylävaara (Olli) at the finale of Kämppä.
Aitiopaikka: Kämppä. FI 1970. PC: Oy Mainos-TV-Reklam Ab. D+SC: Veikko Kerttula - based on the novel (1969) by Alpo Ruuth. Cinematography: Mauno Kuusla, Risto Inkinen, Reijo Hassinen, Raimo Leskinen: 16 mm sepmag, 2880 x 2160, camera negative silent 1:1,33 - TV cameras: Pentti Jurvanen, Vilho Kallio, Jukka Pilli, Klaus Relander - b&w - 4:3. AD: Reino Helkesalo. Production manager: Lennart Lauramaa. Production assistant: Tauno Lahtinen. Script supervisor: Tiina Leiwo. S: Harri Pekkala, Pekka Lampela - mono. ED: Aune Kämäräinen.
    C: Pertti Melasniemi (Pera), Veikko Honkanen (gymnastics teacher), Ilkka Kylävaara (Olli), Petra Frey (Sini), Martti Pennanen (father), Asta Backman (mother), Yrjö Järvinen (history teacher), Hannu Lauri (Salminen), Markku S. Salonen (Timppa), Juha Muje (Jokke), Saara Pakkasvirta (Annukka), Martti Romppanen (principal), Vesa Virtanen (young Kari), Ismo Vehkakoski (Eki), Mikko Viherjuuri (Hessu), Tapani Huuskonen (Masa), Kari Pesonen (Manu), Esa Pakarinen (Vode), Matti Poskiparta (Risi), Martti Kuisma (Väiski), Harri Rantanen (older Kari), Kirsti Kemppainen (Kirre), Katriina Rinne (religious teacher), Harri Hyttinen (Virtanen), Erkki Uotila (parson), Marjatta Raita (Swedish teacher), Aarre Karén (the man from the Department of Health), Irma Martinkauppi (the woman from the Department of Health), Kullervo Kalske (Risi's father), Tuula Keuru (drawing teacher), Ritva Arvelo (mathematics teacher) [teacher of Finnish and literature?], Leo Lastumäki (police examiner), Mirjam Salminen (Social Services officer), Taneli Rinne (dark detective), Martti Tschokkinen (fair detective), Tauno Lehtonen (Kalle, geographics teacher), Aimo Tepponen (manager), Hannu Oravisto (Takala), Sylva Rossi (the old lady upstairs).
    There is no composed music score. My notes from the compilation score: "Taistojen tiellä" (Hannes Konno, Knut Kangas), "Maruzzella" (Renato Carosone, Finnish lyrics Sauvo Puhtila) perf. Seija Karpiomaa,  "April Love" (Sammy Fain, Paul Francis Webster) perf. Pat Boone, "Moonlight Serenade" (Glenn Miller), "Diana" (Paul Anka), "Lazzarella" (Domenico Modugno, Riccardo Pazzaglia, Finnish lyrics Sauvo Puhtila) perf. Laila Kinnunen), "Totuuden henki" (hymn Petrus Tritonius, Germany 1507, Swedish lyrics "Sanningens ande" by Zacharias Topelius, Finnish by Martti Ruuth), "Buona sera signorina" (Peter De Rose, Carl Sigman) perf. Louis Prima, "Illalla illalla" (Chella llà) (Sandro Taccani, Umberto Bertini, Finnish lyrics Sauvo Puhtila) perf. Laila Kinnunen, "In the Mood" (Glenn Miller), "You Are My Destiny" (Paul Anka), "Sävel rakkauden" (Melodie d'amour) (Henri Cording, Felicienne Gabriel Leona, Finnish lyrics Sauvo Puhtila) perf. Vieno Kekkonen, "In the Sun".
    Telecast: 9.3.1970 Mainos-TV [Aitiopaikka] - 126 min
    4K DCP (KAVI 2015) - colour space: X’Y’Z’ - primaries: P3 - bit depth: 12 - sound: 24 - 48 - 6 (5.1) - mono.
    A KAVI screening with Kallio Kukkii / Työväenliikkeen Kirjasto.
    Viewed at the Kino Tulio screening room, Helsinki (Kallio Kukkii / Alpo Ruuth), 20 May 2016

Revisited after 45 years: Kämppä, a high profile television movie directed by Veikko Kerttula for the Finnish commercial television company Mainos-TV, based on the breakthrough novel by Alpo Ruuth (1943-2002) whose fiction was usually set in the working-class neighbourhoods Kallio and Sörnäinen in Helsinki.

The action takes place in the year 1957 but the perspective is from the year 1969. There is an experimental structure in the movie: the linear 1957 action is broken by flash-forwards to 1969, conveyed via passages of key dialogue illustrated by montages of still photographs. The conclusion takes place in 1969 and then pieces of the jigsaw puzzle fall into context and still images are put into motion in the narrative which, however, remains open-ended.

Kämppä is a growing-up story of the bright teenager and talented basketball player Pera (Pertti Melasniemi) from a poor working-class family where the father is often unemployed. At school he is a "rebel without a cause". The clashes with the teachers get more and more merciless, he drops out, and in the conclusion 12 years later he remains an aimless drifter. While many of the former buddies from the kämppä (the shack), the hanging-out place of the teenagers, have found a firm place in life, Pera has lost his orientation. So far.

Kämppä is also a social novel about post-war Finland with glimpses into earlier history. Pera's parents have suffered from the Great Depression and the long war years, and they have established their family later in life than they would have preferred, but they are proud of their three children. Unemployment, housing, health care and juvenile delinquency are among the topics.

More than I remembered Kämppä deals with the school teaching of the period. Although I went to school some 14 years later there was still much that was similar in my school days. In 1970 I was about the same age as the protagonists of Kämppä and for me there were both familiar and strange aspects in the story. I even lived in the Kallio neighbourhood, next to Sörnäinen where Kämppä is set. The reactionary accents in the history and religious teaching were still a reality for me, and I can identify with Pera's aversion to them. In a funny detail Ritva Arvelo (1921-2003), a great champion of modern dance and drama, gets to play the literature teacher who discusses Brecht with her students.

Kämppä is also a growing-up story in the most general way: a story of the awkward age, the first date, the first approach to sex, the first time of getting drunk, and learning about right and wrong, legal and illegal the hard way. The boys commit burglary, get caught, and are sensibly disciplined by the police and the understanding store manager who only asks for full compensation and nothing more. Pera must work to pay for his share.

Veikko Kerttula is a fine director of actors. The cast is great, with top names appearing even in bit parts. Kämppä ranks high in a distinguished company of stories about growing up as a boy in gangs, including Renato Castellani's Sotto il sole di Roma (1948) and Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets (1973). Praising the actors it's hard to start because they are all good but let's acknowledge to begin with that Pertti Melasniemi is convincing in the leading role, embodying both the defiance and the sensitivity of the young man in search of his place in society.

This is a teleplay, and close-ups and extreme close-ups are prominent. There is less distinctive location shooting than I remembered. The most important instance of location shooting is in the finale as Pera is taken to a drive by his pal who has succeeded in life and now owns a car and an apartment while Pera has been "unemployed during every government". The final sound after the image has disappeared is that of the pinball machine.

A special feature of the compilation score, authentic to the period, is the presence of Italian pop songs of the 1950s such as "Maruzzella", "Lazzarella",  "Buona sera signorina", and "Chella llà", many of them inspired by the canzone napoletana tradition. By now they are golden oldies.

The cinematographers have a fine approach in eloquent close-ups and expressive ensemble shots. There is an illuminating 360 degree pan as the boys review the shack for the first time. There are blunt montages of still photographs and expressive long takes when needed. In the otherwise realistic mode there is even a daydream sequence as Pera is distracted by the beautiful legs of the Swedish teacher (Marjatta Raita) (also this sequence is shot in the realistic mode as Luis Buñuel would have done, preferring dream sequences shot with a sober newsreel approach).

Mostly shot on 16 mm film with a separate magnetic soundtrack the movie has been digitally transferred in a way that preserves the lively feeling of the grain, and the black levels are appealing, too. It looks like some passages have been shot on one inch video. An attractive job of digital transformation of a film that deserves to be rediscovered, Kämppä certainly looks better now than when it was originally telecast. A film of permanent and growing value.

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