Thursday, February 08, 2018

Slnko v sieti / The Sun in the Net

Aurinko verkossa
    Slovakia, Czechoslovakia 1962. Year of release: 1963. PC: Filmová tvorba a distribúcia Bratislava, Štúdio hraných filmov Bratislava – Koliba, 1. tvorivá skupina Alberta Marenčina. P: Ján Svikruha. D: Štefan Uher. Ass D: Eduard Grečner (exteriors). SC: Alfonz Bednár – based on his short stories "Fajolo’s Contribution" (Fajolov príspevok), "Pontoon Day" (Pontónový deň), and "Golden Gate" (Zlatá brána). Cin: Stanislav Szomolányi. ED: Bedřich Voděrka. AD: Juraj Červik st. M: Ilja Zeljenka. Cost: Júlia Ballagová. S: Rudolf Pavlíček
    ♪ ”Tequila” (Daniel Flores, US 1959, original performer The Champs)
    ♪ ”Alouette” (trad. children’s song, French-Canadian, first printed in Montréal, 1879)
    ♪ “Let’s Twist Again” (Kal Mann, David Appell, US 1961, original performer Chubby Checker)
    C: Marián Bielik (Fajolo), Jana Beláková (Bela), Eliska Nosálová (Stana Blazejová), Andrej Vandlík (father, Ján "Jano" Blažej), Olga Salagová (Jana), Pavol Chrobák (mechanizátor Blažej), Adam Janco (Stohár Blazer), Lubo Roman (Peto), Anton Galba (Meg), Vladimir Malina (fisherman).
    Loc: Bratislava, Nitrianska Blatnica.
    Premiere: 15 March 1963. In Slovakian. 2565 m / 91 min
    The film was not theatrically released in Finland.
    A 35 mm print with English subtitles of 93 min from Slovenský filmový ústav screened at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (A Tribute to the Slovakian New Wave), 8 Feb 2018

For the first time in Finland we screened Štefan Uher's The Sun in the Net, a pioneering Slovakian New Wave film. Věra Chytilová's O něčem jiném / Something Different, the first Czech New Wave film, had its premiere nine months later, on 20 December 1963.

We hereby launched our tribute to the Slovakian New Wave in collaboration with Slovenský filmový ústav (SFU), inspired by the retrospective three years ago at Midnight Sun Film Festival curated by Olaf Möller. In it we are also screening Peter Solan's Before This Night Is Over (Kým sa skoncí táto noc, 1966), Eduard Grečner's Return of the Dragon (Drak sa vracia, 1967), Dušan Hanák's Pictures of the Old World (Obrazy starého sveta, 1972), and Elo Havetta's Wild Lilies (Ľalie poľné, 1972).

Štefan Uher works here with his trusted screenwriter Alfonz Bednár, cinematographer Stanislav Szomolányi, and composer Ilja Zeljenka.

There is an awareness of contemporary international new wave approaches: a documentary impulse, an appetite for reality, a curiosity for the life lived today, a sensitivity to the immediate experience. Heavy structures are avoided.

Totalitarian political control is ignored, and an atmosphere of freedom prevails in observations. The fabric of life is honest and complex, not conforming to moral lessons or models. Sequences of the work brigade at the farm reveal a failure of the planned economy.

The film takes place in the city of Bratislava, on the banks of the Danube, and in the countryside in Meleňany.

At the center is the Blažej family drama. Via the 15-year-old daughter Bela we learn to know her blind mother Stanka and her negligent father Jan. Bela's boyfriend Fajolo travels to a farm as a member of a summer work brigade. In Fajolo's absence Bela starts to date another guy, Peto, while Fajolo is seeing Jana, the only girl in the work brigade. At the farm in Meleňany lives also Bela's grandfather, Stanka's father, who lets Fajolo into family secrets. Follows a crucial encounter in Bratislava at the family dinner table. The children take their blind mother Stanka to an outing into the woods and towards the Danube. The water level has sunk, and the pontoon they are visiting is on dry ground, but they lie to their mother about the scenery.

A key event is an eclipse, one like has not been seen in 120 years. There had actually been such an eclipse on 15 February 1961 which perhaps also inspired Michelangelo Antonioni's L'eclisse (1962). Another film which somehow come to my mind watching The Sun in the Net was Ingmar Bergman's Through a Glass Darkly (Såsom i en spegel, 1961). Glasses are being smoked. Lectures on the sun are being heard. Ancient sun myths are evoked, such as the sol invictus of Ancient Rome. The title of the film refers to an image of the fisherman's net at a moment when the sun is reflected in the Danube, "caught in the net".

The fisherman's pontoon at the Danube is a central location. The old fisherman is an invalid with a hook prosthesis in one arm, and sometimes he uses his net to cool a bottle of alcohol. He is "old in years, young for love", with a loving wife.

The farm at Meleňany is another key location. The work brigade's tasks are hampered by rusty machines beyond repair and bureaucratic restrictions about the use of the wood. Instead, Fajolo gets to date Jana, and learn to know the fascinating old-timer Blažej, a driving force at the farm regardless his age and the mindless administration of the collective system.

Štefan Uher identifies with the young, shows a lot of respect for the old generation, and reveals a suspicious attitude towards the middle-aged. All generations are displayed: the film starts with images of eggs of a waterbird by the Danube and children's play at the courtyard (rolling inside a tyre), and it ends with a child's request "bread, mother".

The imagery is assured and poetic with recurrent motifs such as:
– a forest of antennae on Bratislava rooftops
– acts and processes of photography
– photographs as freeze frames syncopating the flow of the movie
– the hand as Fajolo's favourite subject as a photographer
– the eye
– the sun
– light
– the sky
– jet trails in the sky
– reflections in the water

The music is based on a spare avantgardistic concept by Ilja Zeljenka. Ocarina solos are a specialty. A major role is played by a ubiquitous stream of what is known in Finland as rautalanka [literally: "iron wire"], a reduced early 1960s instrumental style rock such as in "Apache" by The Shadows. Transistor radios are everywhere, and they are playing a banal variant of this music. For Fajolo it is a revelation to travel into the countryside to experience silence. There grandfather Blažej even teaches him how to silence a public loudspeaker. Also Stanka tells how she loves silence, "as if I had been preparing myself to this silence forever".

There is a poetic structure in the imagery and the soundscape. The film is rich in density, but not without a few longueurs. At times exquisite compositions seem to cover missing depth. But as a whole The Sun in the Net is a very engaging achievement, and it is likely to gain from revisiting.

A very good visual quality in the SFU print, a couple of minutes longer than the official duration.


Sunday, February 04, 2018

1918 - huutoja ja kaikuja II / 1918 - Cries and Echoes II (a seminar on the Finnish Civil War)

Punaorvot valkoisessa Suomessa / [Red Orphans in White Finland].

A seminar on the movies of the 1918 civil war in Finland • organized by DocPoint – Helsinki Documentary Film Festival / Risto Jarva Society / KAVI.
    Moderators: Ville Suhonen, Jouko Aaltonen
    Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Year of Remembrance 1918), 4 Feb 2018

Part II: Sunday 4.2.2018

10.00 Seppo Rustanius: Punaorvot valkoisessa Suomessa [Red Orphans in White Finland] (FI 1999). PC: Illume. 16 mm, magnetic sound. Screened on Betacam SP. 55 min
    Among the witnesses: Ilmi Elo, Eva Erkko.
    Score by Heikki Valpola.
    Reader: Pertti Sveholm.
   "The tale of the 20 000 red orphans who survived the bloody civil war. An attempt was made to relocate and integrate the voluminous bunch of red orphans into white Finland. Children were moved to the province of Ostrobothnia for re-education. Orphanages for red children were established. Some remained with their mother or relatives surviving on subsistence level. In this film the red orphans forgotten by official history can finally be heard."
    Remarks by Associate Professor Ulla-Maija Peltonen.
    AA: A precious record of living memory of red orphan children experiencing gross injustice at foster homes, schools, and the military. A heritage of harassment and slight.

11.15  Seppo Rustanius: Punaiset esiliinat / [Red Aprons] (FI 1997). PC: Illume. 16 mm, magnetic sound. Screened on Betacam SP. 65 min
    Score by Heikki Valpola.
    Readers: Eriikka Magnusson, Matti Paloheimo.
    Among the witnesses: Aili Eskola, Elli Forsström, Aira Hämäläinen, Eeva Mäkinen, Meeri Lindström, Elli Nurminen (archival tape), Paula Suotaala, Meeri Pitkänen, Hilkka Vuori, Marja Torikka, daughter of Ingrid Kuhlman, Ellen Harmovaara (archival tape), Martta Koivisto (archival tape), and Ilmi Elo.
    "A film about women in the Red Guards of Finland in 1918. The first documentary film on the subject".
    Remarks by writer Anneli Kanto.
    AA: Remarkable first generation records of the female red guard soldiers who not only participated in military action but were usually the most valiant elements in the civil war. After the war they became the victims of the most atrocious retribution. The surviving witnesses who were young girls at the time comment that they chose not to reminiscence about those times. "Only now I have started to think about them". "Those matters were never discussed". "Nobody asked". Not even their husbands and children necessarily knew.    

12.45 Seppo Rustanius: Uhrit 1918 [The Victims 1918] (FI 2008). PC: Illume. Screened on Digital Betacam. 52 min
    The two protagonists: Erik Grotenfelt and Matti Olmanketo.
   "A film about the victims of the 1918 civil war – the winners and the losers. During the 1918 civil war and especially afterwards thousands of Finns were executed. Mainly responsible for the executions were the winners. The film is an account of this time of dread and terror via two protagonists. One was an executioner, another was executed. Both were victims of the war."
    Remarks by PhD Aapo Roselius.
    AA: Numbers can be numbing. This movie brings us closer to the actuality of the war via two protagonists. Matti Olmanketo and Erik Grotenfelt were both artistically sensitive family fathers. Olmanketo, who belonged to the Reds, was executed. Grotenfelt became an executioner, but in 1919 he committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

1918 – huutoja ja kaikuja I / 1918 – Cries and Echoes I (a seminar on the Finnish Civil War)

The takeover of Helsinki in 1918 CC BY 4.0 N10045. The Parade of the White Army on North Esplanade on 16 May 1918. In front of the headquarters. Source: reproduction negative from glass negative. Photographer: Gunnar Lönnqvist 16.5.1918. 9 x 12. Photo: Helsinki City Museum. Please do click to enlarge the photograph.

A seminar on the movies of the 1918 civil war in Finland • organized by DocPoint – Helsinki Documentary Film Festival / Risto Jarva Society / KAVI.
    Moderators: Ville Suhonen, Jouko Aaltonen
    Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Year of Remembrance 1918), 3 Feb 2018

Part I: Saturday 3.2.2018

10.00 Lecture: Authentic documentary film material of the civil war: truth and framing. Senior researcher Jari Sedergren
10.15 Photographs and photographers of the civil war. Senior researcher Jukka Kukkonen
    AA: Two lessons in source criticism. Most of the films and photographs of the events of 1918 are biased. Images of "documentary war footage" are usually reconstructions. They can be rewarding but only if examined critically. When one publishes photographs of the events sources should be carefully identified.

10.45 Reino Palmroth: Sama kaiku on askelten [The Echo Remains the Same] (FI 1968). PC: Opus Film. KAVI 35 mm. 23 min
    "An unofficial 50th jubileum film of the Jäger movement and the civil war."
    AA: A patriotic celebration of the Jäger movement which was trained in imperial Germany during WWI to help fight for Finnish independence. When Finland became independent without a fight, the movement played a key role in the civil war on the White side. A film full of rousing marches, official Jäger film footage, and a commentary read by the legendary Reino Palmroth himself. A brilliant print.

11.15 Sini Järnström: Hilja, punaisen tyttö [Hilja, Daughter of the Reds] (FI 2006). PC: TAMK Taide ja Viestintä. 2K DCP transfer from Digital Betacam. 11 min
    "The 101 year old Hilja Virtanen tells about the events of 1918. War memories and the silence surrounding it affected her whole life."
    AA: A moving and harrowing account of the Battle of Tampere, the bloodiest battle in the history of the Nordic countries, as remembered by Hilja Virtanen, 13 at the time. She also remembers the bloody retribution and a harassment that lasted for decades.

COFFEE BREAK. A pop up café (by Itä-Uudenmaan Palloseura) and an exhibition of photographs of the year 1918.

12.00 Kaisa Salmi: Fellmanin pelto [The Fellman Field] (FI 2013). Kaisa Salmi, triptych copy, Quicktime ProRes422HQ. English subtitles. 23 min
    Five stories: Jussi Niinistö, Anna Kontula, Pekka Tero..., Timo Hurme, Aki-Mauri Huhtinen.
    "La Marseillaise", lyr. Edla Saarto ("Ken oikeutta puolustaapi") sung by Kaisa Korhonen, lyr. Heikki Salo.
    "The artist Kaisa Salmi directed in the Fellman Park in the city of Lahti in April 2013 the performance The Fellman Field - a living monument of 22 000 people. 10 000 people from all over Finland participated. The performance was based on the events of the biggest prison camp of the civil war of 1918 in Lahti. The documentary brings together the biggest ever performance in Finland, the stories of five protagonists and a poetic recitative read by dozens of volunteers for the camera."
    AA: A documentary record of a magnificent performance which inspired and activated a flood of repressed memories. An event of monumental catharsis.

12.25 Kaisa Salmi: Veripelto [Field of Blood] (FI 2018). Kaisa Salmi, Quicktime ProRes422HQ. 8 min
    "A prison guard atones for a family trauma by digging a grave in the Field of Blood performance in the Jättömaa of the city of Kouvola, at the same place where in 1918 first Whites and then Reds were executed. The first public screening of the movie."
    AA: "Granpa carried this burden inside for seventy years". Digging a grave as a way of dealing with the burden of guilt. A performance as a therapeutic act. Another collective performance, recorded also with aerial cameras.

12.45 Seppo Rustanius: Sotapapit [Priests of War] (1981). PC: Yleisradio TV2 Dokumenttiohjelmat. 2K DCP from Yleisradio videotape. 37 min
    "A controversial (and in the original telecast partly censored) television documentary on the theme of the church of Finland, the clergy and the war in independent Finland from the 1918 civil war until the end of the second world war".
    AA: The story of the union of the clergy and the military during the first decades of independent Finland. With interviews with Arvi Järventaus, Antti Rentola, Jyrki Järnefelt, Armas Salmenkivi, Jorma Juutilainen, Heikki Holkeri, etc. The message of the film is the same as Bob Dylan's in "With God On Our Side".

A discussion on the censoring of the film and its political significance. Priest Heikki Palmu
    AA: Heikki Palmu criticized the film for one-sidedness. It only shows one side of the clergy while in reality there were many. Truth was more complex than this.