Mollberg’s chef d’oeuvre is this remarkable three-hours-plus adaptation of Väino Linna’s The Unknown Soldier, a monumental best-selling novel that has been called the Finnish equivalent of Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front or Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead. An earlier screen version, directed by Edvin Laine and released in 1955, is considered one of the great classics of the Finnish cinema, and was for decades the most commercially successful Finnish film ever made; Mollberg’s version, co- scripted by novelist Linna himself, was twice as expensive as any Finnish feature before it, and was a major critical and commercial success in Finland and elsewhere in Scandinavia.
“The Unknown Soldier tells of a single machinegun platoon’s bloody way through Finland’s so-called Continuation War (1941-44) with Russia over the Karelia province, which the Finns had already once, in the winter of 1939-40, fought for valiantly. They lost both rounds, but while the Winter War made the Finns heroes in the eyes of the world, they fought the follow-up in the shadows of not only World War II, but burdened with the ignominy of suddenly finding themselves allied with Hitler’s Germany. . . In classic war movie style, we follow a little flock through induction and training into ferocious action . . . [The film] is staunchly anti-war in its impact, but it is also a soberly honest, straight goods piece of entertainment. . . [It] competes favourably with both book and Laine’s work by bringing viewpoints and technical credits handsomely up to date” (Variety).
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