For a history buff as I am, this was a very unforgiving work of high integrity, I believe. I am still aghast at the brutality of WWI; there are so many untold stories that are being further elided with the passage of time. The longstanding conflict between Russia and Finland is not well known to Americans. The focus on the war in France overshadows the other battlefronts too. This story does not really spend any time on character development, but focuses on one small, cruel action on the periphery of The Great War, as it was known.
I have to remind myself how Finland was beaten up by Russia over the years because the alliance with the Nazis during WWII has sullied Finland for many Americans. As I understand, the Finns were really caught between two awful choices, and they chose the Germans to avoid allying themselves with the much-hated Russians. (That's a real oversimplification.) Anyway, this film was unrelentingly brutal and sad, exemplifying the terrible waste of life, the confusion, the hopelessness and pointlessness and impersonal nature of war. A troupe of young patriots try to hold off the encroaching Russian forces and in so doing are killed or wounded in various terrible ways. They show great courage, cruelty and brotherhood. Some of the background photos and film are authentic, and it always gives one an eerie and wrenchingly sad feeling to see these poor souls trapped in vicious circumstances, their lives and hopes and individuality swept away by History.
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