The legendary film magnate Toivo Särkkä (1890-1975) still holds the Finnish record for most movies produced and directed with 52 credits for directing and 233 for producing. The inspirational family movie Pieni luutatyttö from 1958 belongs among his last ten films and even though it may not be the best known of his work, I liked it alright.
When schoolwork ends and summer holiday begins for the other kids in a small Finnish village, a little orphaned girl named Liisa Salminen is sent all alone to Helsinki by her cruel stepfather to sell ten poorly made and overpriced brooms. During her day in the big city, little Liisa diligently tries to get her brooms sold and encounters various people from criminals to cops, some of whom are nice, some not as much.
I remember seeing this movie as a kid and still thought fondly of it when seeing it again now after many years. Considering the premise and the era it was made in, the movie is actually way less cheesy than it could have been. Of course, the adorable little Liisa (played by the young Riitta Hämäläinen who is credited as "the fairytale girl of Savo" in the opening credits) is thoroughly innocent and naive especially from a cynical modern point of view, but the film doesn't really portray the city as a completely rotten place either like many old cautionary tales do. All references to adult themes like pedophilia and prostitution remain somewhat veiled and are suitable for young viewers too.
The evil characters like the slimy "friend of children" Julius (Oiva Sala) or a busy lady who cheats Liisa in her business are contrasted against the goodie types like Petteri, a hobo with a heart of gold (Leo Lähteenmäki) and the righteous policeman Rinne (Kauko Kokkonen). Also seen are morally torn figures like an anxious prostitute (Nelly Anita Lovén) and Julius' gutsy wife Emma (Siiri Angerkoski). A rich family with a snobby mother and a poor family with friendly parents could be mentioned too.
As a fan of musicals I was delighted by Harry Bergström's score and the songs, especially Petteri's recurring tune, the joyous ball-playing song of the rich family's kids and the amusing "Putipux" vacuum cleaner ditty. I admit having said this about many old movies, but I must mention that the busy Helsinki streets make a very nice backdrop for the events and are fun to see more than 50 years after they were filmed. Riitta Hämäläinen handles the lead role alright considering the light tone of the story and the fact that they have obviously put a lot of trust in her cuteness to win audiences over. Leo Lähteenmäki is also very lovable as the friendly hobo Petteri.
It has been said that in a way the people Liisa encounters on her trip symbolize the ten commandments of the bible, but such an interpretation is not really something that comes to mind immediately when watching the movie. Maybe I'm getting soft, but to me Pieni luutatyttö remains a sympathetic little movie with an adorably positive message; in many ways old-fashioned and silly, I still like it for its entertainment value and characters.
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