Song of the Scarlet Flower was Teuvo Tulio’s first independently produced film, and the earliest of his surviving films.
“I had for a while been thinking of filming Johannes Linnankoski’s novel. Surprisingly this popular Don Juan-tale hadn’t yet been filmed in Finland. It had been done in Sweden twice: first as a silent film by the world-famous Mauritz Stiller and later as a sound film by the esteemed director Per-Axel Branner.
I knew the task would be hard. Viewers often maintain overblown memories of movies they have liked. The fight for audience’s approval would be strenuous. Moreover, the Swedes had had two top-notch actors, Lars Hanson and Edvin Adolphson, playing Olavi. My only chance would be wild rapids-riding scenes and intensive love scenes, which were my specialty. The movie was an enticing challenge, I believed I would be able to offer something new and different. These were bold thoughts, but it meant a lot to me and my career. I decided to try.”
The plot was about Olavi, a farmer’s son who leaves his home after a dispute with his father and leads a life of a womanizing logger. For the role of Olavi, the handsome athlete Kille Oksanen was chosen, although he faced a difficult choice between playing the part and playing his fiftieth international football match in the summer of 1937. This time Tulio wouldn’t cast his friend Regina Linnanheimo, feeling that the lack of a big female role would hamper her career. Nevertheless, he was able to get an impressive row of national beauties led by Regina’s sister Rakel to play Olavi’s women. The decision not to play in this movie would turn out to be wise for Regina Linnanheimo, who would promptly be fought over by the major studios and became the most popular Finnish actress for years, until her return to Tulio’s team in late ’40s.
The movie sacrifices some of the novel’s romanticism to moralizing, probably because of several factors: an attempt to tie the story to society instead of infantile introspection, the writer’s gnosticism vs Tulio’s catholicity, censorship, and Tulio’s Feminist inclinations, which appear here surprisingly conspicuously. At the same time, it lacks the nihilism of his post-war efforts while still displaying his fully-developed, stylized visual style.
Markku Varjola: “In the Finnish conscousness the logger occupies the role of the cowboy from the American(universalized) heritage. He has represented adventure, freedom and independence, constantly moving true man, a vanishing breed. He serves a community he can’t belong to and which finally makes him useless. The logger is more attached to his friends than the lonesome cowboy, but the image we get of Olavi is that of a self-sufficient traveller who follows his own path.”
Included extras: An introduction by film director Jari Halonen and a minidoc about Teuvo Tulio’s acting career.