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Milka: Elokuva tabuista (1980)

In a small Finnish Lapland community, Milka, an innocent 14-year-old girl lives with her mother, misses her dead father and prays God to show her what love is. For haymaking, they employ a ... See full summary »


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Cast overview:
Irma Huntus ... Milka Sierkkiniemi
Leena Suomu ... Anna Sierkkiniemi
Matti Turunen ... Ojanen, 'Kristus-Perkele'
Eikka Lehtonen ... Cantor Malmström
Esa Niemelä ... Auno Laanila
Hellin Auvinen-Salmi ... Villager
Sirkka Metsäsaari ... Mother Laanila
Ulla Tapaninen ... Ojanen's woman friend
Toivo Tuomainen ... Villager
Tauno Lehtihalmes ... Dean


In a small Finnish Lapland community, Milka, an innocent 14-year-old girl lives with her mother, misses her dead father and prays God to show her what love is. For haymaking, they employ a simple but hard-working field hand, nicknamed Christ-Devil, who decides to stay and become the man of the house, courting both the mother and daughter. Eventually he leaves them both, and Milka has his child. Written by Markku Kuoppamäki

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Release Date:

19 December 1980 (Finland)  »

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Milka  »

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Featured in Matka suomalaiseen elokuvaan: Tutkiva katse (2006) See more »

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User Reviews

Spectacular photography makes for near-classic
9 May 2011 | by See all my reviews

In the '70s, Rauni Mollberg's EARTH IS OUR SINFUL SONG was one of my favorite foreign films, and established the director as a major talent on the film festival circuit. I never got to see this amazing followup, MILKA (based on a work by the same novelist, Timo Mukka), till now, but it is worthy of major DVD exposure.

Unlike the Kaurismaki Bros. who followed, and double-handedly created a tongue-in-cheek (yet deadpan) Finnish film style for fans around the world, Mollberg was committed to a naturalistic approach. His films overflow with nature, life, lust, and an earthiness one finds in Scandi cinema mainly in the work of a more famous talent, the Swede Vilgot Sjoman of I AM CURIOUS (YELLOW) fame.

Both directors made a film with TABU in the title (or implied), and this Mollberg effort is quite effective in sidestepping yet fully treating the screen theme of incest. By making the adult character a father figure rather than a real, blood-related daddy, he applies the usual "it was merely the step-father" gimmick that is used countless times in American movies about incest, but works very well here.

That's because Matti Turunen as Kristus-Perkele (name translates as Christ/Devil) is really the common-law step dad to underage Milka, a beautiful (in offbeat fashion) young girl portrayed by one-shot Irma Huntus, who brings to the screen the sexiness that Bergman found in Harriet Andersson three decades earlier, in creating his first international successes SUMMER WITH MONIKA and SAWDUST AND TINSEL. I cannot imagine any other actress in the Milka role, and it is a shame that she did not pursue an acting career afterward.

Completing the strong front line is Leena Suomu, an Earth-Mother type who confines her acting to a narrow emotional range but proves to be solid as a rock in a crucial role.

Bookended by spectacularly beautiful shots of a birch wood in winter (virtually 100% black & white visually except for the color presence of Milka), film quickly develops its one-with-nature themes by the presence of a strange "clicking" (with beak) bird as talisman, and an early scene of Milka and the handyman (Turunen) frolicking naked in a lake. When they emerge, there is oh-so-natural sex play between 14-year-old Milka and the man, resulting in a tastefully shot intimacy and implied ejaculation, setting up trouble to come.

The religious aspects of this remote farming community are heavily stressed, and I especially enjoyed the motif of spiritual guidance from Cantor Malmstrom (quality, anti-stereotypical playing by Eikka Lehtonen), who instead of being rigid and cruel turns out to be caring once Milka's illegitimate baby is born. In between, she has a strong romance with Turunen, while the stud also continues servicing her mom and other women in the neighborhood. Again, it's all presented as utterly natural with the viewer in the position of watching an ethnographic exercise rather than a moralistic tale.

Also powerful is the technique of Milka frequently speaking directly to the camera (and viewer) in forceful monologues which bear the crisp sound recording (sounds of nature including rain being a constant motif) that makes MILKA an engrossing experience. I viewed the film without subtitles and have no knowledge of Finnish (or Lapp) but (recalling the best of Silent Era classics) the direction is strong enough to convey its dramatic content and themes in a way that transcends language.

Kudos to Mollberg and his talented cinematographers for a job well done -a work that remains in obscurity but is ripe for rediscovery.

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