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A movie based on real wartime diaries tells the story of the Swedish speaking Finns' infantry regiment 61. The story follows the regiment during the Continuation War from 1942 to 1944 and from Syväri to the Karelian Isthmus where they faced some of the most grueling battles against the Soviet Union. Written by
Henry and Kristl went Beyond Enemy Lines(2004). Well, Henry didn't because..
..he doesn't understand German and watching a movie in a language he does not understand might be funny, but only if he was with a group of friends who do not understand it either and have around the same level of mildly intoxication as he had.
But Henry was neither intoxicated nor with a group of friends, but only accompanied by Kristl, who can understand German very well, her being Austrian, and that makes for one hell of a disadvantage in a review.
So here follows a review written by Kristl.
It was not easy to find this movie on the IMDb as the movie I saw was called 'Beyond the Frontline. The Battle for Karelien' instead of 'Beyond Enemy Lines'. Despite the English title the movie was voiced in German and I am unsure if there were any English subtitles so I question if it would be of any use to an English audience.
This movie is from Finland and depicts remembered events from the war between Finland and the Soviet Union that coincided with the Second World War. I say remembered events because at the beginning we see a pair of grizzled veterans adorned with medals talking about that war with a young woman, who seems to be writing down their stories. It is their recollections thus that we are witnessing.
I also say remembered, because a movie like this is more about what people remember then about what actually happened. Someone once said that of all the evidence one can submit to court, personal memory is the least trusted because people tend to recall things in a subjective manner and thus memories can be - and often are - changed because of wishful thinking, peer pressure, trauma and self delusion.
The movie shows us the times and trepidations of a group of volunteers that are part of the infantry regiment 61, a Swedish volunteer unit in the service of the army of Finland. It is mid 1944 and the Soviets are on the move. Their aim is to advance through the Karelian Isthmus and thus gain access to the more open lands beyond. Karelia was an area hemmed in between the gulf of Finland and Lake Lagoda. It was an inhospitable land, with few roads and a lot of lakes and forests. A land more suitable to the defense than to conquest. Hence the Finish decided to make their stand there and with the aid of German (anti-tank) weapons, some German troops and volunteers from countries like Sweden, the Fins managed, for a while, to halt the Russian onslaught, which included tanks, massed artillery and sizable infantry forces.
In itself this subject could be quite interesting as it shows a part of World War II of which not much is told and, to be honest, I feel some sympathy for a small country facing a big one such as the Soviet Union, even if Finland happened to be on the wrong side in the war.
The challenge for a director working in such small country as Finland is to somehow make his movie interesting while lacking a sizable budget. Such a movie inevitable can only do this by substituting quantity for quality which means: using good acting, a well written script and camera-work to offset the lack of three b's, being: big boys, loud bangs and bouncing boobies.
This movie only partially succeeds. The problem lies with the lack of story. This movie is like a drawn-out dramatized documentary that focuses on warfare and assumes that simply moving forward through time is enough of a plot device to keep people interested. It lacks drama and the personalities thus are flat. This is underscored by the fact that none of the soldiers seem to get worse for wear. They remain clean shaven and properly dressed despite the chaos of war. It is as if they are playing at warfare instead of actually undergoing it.
Another problem with this movie is that the soldiers are sometimes too much cast as 'heroes'. The Russians, being the enemy, are depicted as the usually non-entities whose only role is to get killed in droves. At one moment a group of seven volunteers infiltrate a Russian position killing thirty soldiers. During this fight three 'heroes' manage to survive the blast of three hand-grenades with barely a scratch while the Russians fly through the air when the favor is returned. And when two battalions of Russians soldiers take on a company of these Swedish volunteers, the latter hardly suffer any losses at all, while the first get exterminated.
It is all a bit too much.
Why is it that in movies 'our side' is superior in all respect except for the amounts of men, of course, while 'their side' consists of a multitude of carbon copy dregs that can't shoot straight? Does a movie become less of a movie when the enemy is not just a shadowy figure in a landscape, but a person, like you or me with an equal fair change to kill one of us, as we have to kill one of them? Is it more heroic that a man, portrayed as superior in every respect, kills one who is inferior in everything? Is that what a 'hero' is?
The bottom line is that this movie is interesting because it depicts events that I have not heard much about, but if the Swedes and Fins had been American soldiers and the context had been a battle in Western Europe like say, the battle of the bulge or the landing in Normandy, I would not have given this movie a second glance.
And thus the final verdict. An interesting movie but not very impressive.
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