Täällä Pohjantähden alla is based on the book with the same title. It is a story of the little village. The movie starts in the 1890's and it ends to the Finnish civil war in 1918. Story ...
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Täällä Pohjantähden alla is based on the book with the same title. It is a story of the little village. The movie starts in the 1890's and it ends to the Finnish civil war in 1918. Story concentrates around a tenant farmer family, although it gives us a good look at the society at whole. While the class struggle depends, people of the village are driven to bloody civil war. Written by
Ville Kulmala <email@example.com>
The North Star trilogy (1959-62) by Väinö Linna belongs among the most famous and popular Finnish novels of the last century, so it was only natural that a film adaptation would be made sooner or later. Edvin Laine was always an obvious choice for director, having helmed the legendary film version of Linna's The Unknown Soldier in 1955. As the trilogy covers a long period of time and several generations, the film version was divided in two; this film covers the first two books, while the final book was brought to life in Akseli ja Elina a couple of years later.
The story begins in the late 19th century when Finland is still part of the Russian empire. A poor farmer named Jussi Antinpoika (Risto Taulo) is allowed to build his own cottage on a swamp, provided that he pays his rent to the landowner without complaints. The humble Jussi agrees, sets up some crops and a house called Koskela and marries a local woman named Alma (Anja Pohjola). While Jussi and Alma like to live peacefully and pay the rising rents by working without complaints, the changing political climate of the country affects their lives as well: growing awareness of workers' rights and socialist movements in Russia has reached the community and eventually a workers' union is formed by a local tailor Halme (Kalevi Kahra). In the meanwhile, the three sons of Jussi and Alma have grown from boys to men and also take part in the socialist activity. When the Civil War of 1918 begins, the Red forces of the Pentinkulma municipality are led by the eldest son Akseli (Aarno Sulkanen), who initially insists on keeping the rebellion bloodless, but ultimately cannot control the wave of violence rolling over the country.
Some understanding of the tenant system that once defined the lives of many poor peasants and eventually gave birth to the division of the people into the Reds (workers) and the Whites (landowners) will facilitate grasping the story, but the plot is perfectly understandable for attentive viewers even without knowledge of Finnish history. The slowly rising tension between the workers and the patriotic, anti-Russian landowners is portrayed without haste, allowing the relations of the classes develop naturally. Never does the story become preachy in favour of either side of the conflict; both are guilty of many atrocities. The less intense supporters of both sides are also appalled to see how their respective causes have incited so much violence: Red tailor Halme and White Pastor Salpakari (Matti Ranin) carry a calm breeze of peace amidst all the unrest.
Besides the epic Nation-in-Turmoil plot lines, the story also has time to examine more down-to-earth, personal relationships of the characters. The family life of Jussi and Alma, and later Akseli and his wife Elina (Titta Karakorpi), is also skilfully portrayed and doesn't feel like a distraction from the big picture. The colourful characters in the village also add their charm to the whole, be it the always cheery Otto Kivivuori (Kauko Helovirta) or the unlucky Anttoo Laurila (Veikko Sinisalo) whose eviction in the middle of the coldest winter gives a spark to the growing Red movement in the municipality. Also, unlike in many other older Finnish films, there are no traces of theatricality in any of the performances. The focus is moved naturally from one generation to another, and over the three hours of the film it is easy to start caring for the people of Pentinkulma, making the tragic ending feel very sad, but ultimately not completely hopeless.
The intricacies of the plot can be attributed to author Linna, but director Laine deserves praise for the cinematic qualities of the film version too. The rich colours of the scenery during the changing seasons, the massive group scenes and battle sequences and the pacing of the plot are all well done. Even if the narrator's voice feels like a somewhat literal solution at first, it is ultimately not used too much and doesn't interfere with the visual storytelling distractingly. The music is also completely fitting, from the famous wedding waltz of Akseli and Elina to the socialist working class songs that are heard both as performed by the characters and as parts of the non-diegetic score.
I have to admit I haven't read Linna's novels, but I enjoyed the film very much. Much like in The Unknown Soldier, the action and personal drama are in good balance and the film helps to cast light on the tragic era of Finnish history. Täällä Pohjantähden alla can safely be called one of the essential Finnish films, and it is recommended to anyone interested in history and the Civil War of the country.
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