is a small country, with some big history.
During WWII, they forcibly ejected both the Soviets and the National
Socialists from their territory, only give birth to the term Finlandization in
the post-war years. An interconnected
circle of friends and rivals will witness the tumultuous decades leading up to
the Winter War in Peter Lindholm’s Where
Once We Walked (trailer
screens as part of the 2012 World Film Festival of Montreal.
Lilliehjelms have money. The Kajanders
have not—and they will never let the Lilliehjelms forget it. Eventually red diaper baby Allu Kajander will
embark on an ambiguously passionate relationship with Lucie Lilliehjelm, the
rebellious daughter of the imperious patriarch who once summarily dismissed his
mother. However, in the years of the
Russian Revolutions and the Finnish Civil War, Ms. Lucie has several suitors
more befitting her class, even including her brother Cedi’s morose best friend Eric
a bit of an outsider, Winding willing enlists with the White faction after
witnessing the destruction wrought by the empowered Reds. Yet, it is the score-settling he soon watches
first-hand after the White victory that sends him into a psychological
tailspin. While his pained conscience
poisons his friendship with Cedi, his continuing attraction to his flapper
sister (and their periodic assignations) undermines his marriage. Of course, all Finns will have much more
pressing concerns arriving from the east in 1939.
from a six part Finnish mini-series (which in turn adapted Kjell Westö’s
door-stopper novel), the feature-length WOWW
(handled internationally by The Yellow Affair) dispenses with entire narrative
tributaries for the sake of compactness.
As a result, some periods, like the Red interregnum, are given short
shrift, whereas the White purges become the film version’s dramatic hinge. Perhaps most disappointingly for admirers of
Finland, the movie version of WOWW practically
concludes just as the Winter War (the country’s darkest yet arguably finest
hour) begins. In fact, it might as well
end with “to be continued” spelled out in ten feet tall letters.
WOWW is not even
remotely in Doctor Zhivago’s league,
but it is intriguing to see roughly the same period of history from the Finnish
perspective. The weather is certainly similar. In fact, it is pretty cinematic to see
resolute Finns cross-country skiing off to join the White resistance. WOWW is
also a nicely crafted period production, but still there are times when it
looks very TV in a TV kind of way. (The
opening credit sequence showing leaves falling into a river really needed
sprucing up.) The racially integrated
American jazz band is also something of an anachronism for 1928, but to be fair,
if you are assembling a New Orleans style hot jazz band in Finland, you
probably have to take who you can get.
not exactly a classic beauty, Jessica Grabowsky plays sister Lilliehjelm with
flirtatious verve. Stiff and dour in
comparison, Jakob Öhrman and Oskar Pöysti at least prove they can either brood
or seethe on cue, as lover Winding and Brother Cedi, respectively. Charles Salter also has a nifty near cameo as
bandleader Robert W. “Jonesy” Jones, leading viewers to hope and suspect there
is more of him either to come or available for Finish television viewing.
WOWW covers some fascinating history while treating
viewers to some lovely sets and costumes.
It just feels so incomplete and unbalanced, though. Nonetheless, Montreal residents and visitors
interested in these oft overlooked historical episodes may not have a lot of
other opportunities to see early Twentieth Century Finnish history dramatized
on-screen and might therefore consider catching the imperfect Where Once We Walked anyway when it
screens this coming Wednesday (8/28) and Saturday (9/1) during this year’s
World Film Festival up north.
Labels: Finnish Television, Scandinavian Cinema, WFF Montreal '12