Over his career in film, Matti Kassila directed many acclaimed classics of Finnish cinema, such as the four Inspector Palmu films (1960-69), The Harvest Month (1956) and Red Line (1959). Besides the serious dramas, Kassila also made several comedies out of which at least Radio tekee murron (1951) can be safely recommended to aficionados of older Finn-films. His 1954 farce Hilman päivät was part the 20 year anniversary repertoire of the studio Suomen Filmiteollisuus and hits home fairly funnily too.
The story is mostly set within one day in an unnamed rural village in the early 1930s. A young judge Heikki (Matti Ranin) arrives to the town and is quickly pulled into joining the local fire brigade led by an overachieving shopkeeper Kalervo (Edvin Laine). Two pretty girls, the pharmacist's assistant and the post office lady (Vieno Kekkonen and Aino Mantsas), also show interest in the handsome young man, but the romantic interludes come to an abrupt end when a fire breaks out in the village and Heikki has to join Kalervo in the attempts to put the flames out. This also causes the post office lady to get stuck in the judges' house with an ostensibly grumpy older judge Yrjö (Tauno Palo)...
The narrator's voice-over provides insight to the characters' future escapades, even utilizing freeze frames at one point, a technique that rarely goes wrong. The general style grows from a loud farce into a rom-com, but Kassila masters both approaches at ease (understandably, since he won the Director's Jussi Award for the film). I was never annoyed neither by the bumbling fire brigade's antics earlier on nor the romantic misunderstandings in the latter half of the story even though both parts could have gone wrong in many ways. Especially the scene with the hard-of-hearing old man in the house of Vekkula (Pentti Irjala) is hilarious despite featuring constant yelling which I usually dislike. Edvin Laine and Oke Tuuri are also great as the frustrated fire chief Kalervo and the laid-back chauffeur Alpertti respectively.
The women of the story are really beautiful, even though Vieno Kekkonen has a way smaller role than director Kassila's wife Aino Mantsas who plays the perky post office girl who pleasantly turns the plot into a not-so-clichéd direction I was worried it would be heading at. In addition, the raging fire sequences look pretty spectacular for an old Finnish film. To wrap up, Hilman päivät can be called one of the better Finnish comedies of its decade. It doesn't really offer anything groundbreaking or new, but what it does, it does well.
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