Finland

Nyrki Tapiovaara – Varastettu kuolema AKA Stolen Death [Director’s Cut] (1938)

A thriller set in turn-of-the-century Helsinki, Stolen Death uses elements of German expressionism to tell the story of Finnish resistance fighters smuggling arms to overthrow the Tsarist occupiers of Finland. Tapiovaara stresses the divided loyalties of the Finnish bourgeoisie, torn between preserving their privileged economic position and taking a risky stand for an independent Finland. Read More »

Teuvo Puro – Noidan kirot AKA The Curses of the Witch (1927)

A customized rip of this 1927 silent classic from the Suomi-Filmi studio. Often referred to as the first Finnish horror film, though the 1923 historical drama made at the same studio, Rautakylän vanha parooni (“The Old Baron of Rautakylä”), can also be classified as Gothic horror. What is more, the horror elements in The Curses of the Witch are few and far between, but all the more effective for that: the interposed image of a raving Lapp witch, the ominous owl foreboding the nerve-wracking and fateful boat ride, and the strange furry demon that appears on the hero’s bedside after it are as unforgettable as anything the best of Swedish or Danish horror films of the time had to offer. Read More »

Jack Witikka – Aila – Pohjolan tytär AKA Arctic Fury (1951)

A precursor of sorts to The White Reindeer (1952), featuring the same female lead, Mirjami Kuosmanen, and the same cinematographer, Erik Blomberg, who was Kuosmanen’s husband and went on to direct as well as shoot the later film. Disappointment in this film was one of the reasons that led Blomberg and Kuosmanen to make The White Reindeer as an independent production. The film’s nominal producer was Michael Powell, but in fact the production was supervised by John Seabourne (for some reason billed “Jussi” Seabourne in the opening credits), a close friend of Powell’s and the editor of many of the Powell & Pressburger classics of the 1940s. Read More »

Mika Kaurismäki – Cha Cha Cha (1989)

Quote:
A lawyer pays a visit to Matti Ojanperä (Matti Pellonpää), a bum living under a bridge in the Helsinki harbour, to inform him that he is about to inherit an American aunt of his. The sum 1,000,000 Fmk would be his, if only he meets the qualifications set by his aunt.

He must show that he is capable of ‘living properly’ and possessing a ‘respectable occupation and a family he can support’. Otherwise the money would go to a foundation the chairman of which the lawyer himself happens to be! Read More »

Peter von Bagh – Helsinki, ikuisesti AKA Helsinki, Forever (2008)

Probably writer-director Peter von Bagh’s masterpiece in the documentary genre, a personal love letter to the city of Helsinki as it once was and as it might have been, taking the form of a collage of film clips, photographs, paintings, song and music fragments, quotations from Finnish writers and von Bagh’s own musings, read by himself and the actors Erja Manto and Sulevi Peltola. A real treat, not to be missed by any fan of Finnish cinema or the “city symphony” genre. Read More »

Carl von Haartman – Korkein voitto AKA The Highest Prize (1929)

Ferdinand von Galitzien’s review from the IMDb:
The Baron Henrik von Hagen is an idle Finn bourgeois (as you can see, decadent people are all over the world…); after eleven years, he meets again an old acquaintance, Madame Vasilyevna, a foreigner who during her youthful days was a ballet dancer while Herr Baron was her faithful cavalier. Once they are reunited again in Helsinki, Herr Baron discovers that Madame Vasilyevna earns her living with a new hobby: she likes very much painting frozen Finn landscapes but especially the ones around military bases. Read More »

Erik Blomberg – Valkoinen peura AKA The White Reindeer (1952)

Blending the vampire and werewolf mythology into a fascinatingly unique and inspired synthesis which also adds elements from pre-Christian folklore, filmmaker Erik Blomberg’s simple, lyrical parable about how all actions have consequences has the immediacy, intimacy and potency of an eloquently spun scary campfire yarn. Skillfully directed, produced, edited, co-written and shot in gorgeous monochromatic black and white by Blomberg, who began photographing movies back in the 30’s and made only four other films before spending the rest of his career doing documentaries for television, this plainly done and elegantly understated debut feature benefits greatly from not only its powerfully direct and unpretentious story, but also from its highly unusual and intriguing period setting. Read More »