A thriller set in turn-of-the-century Helsinki, Stolen Death uses elements of German expressionism to tell the story of Finnish resistance fighters smuggling arms to overthrow the Tsarist ...
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A thriller set in turn-of-the-century Helsinki, Stolen Death uses elements of German expressionism to tell the story of Finnish resistance fighters smuggling arms to overthrow the Tsarist occupiers of Finland. Tapiovaara stresses the divided loyalties of the Finnish bourgeoisie, torn between preserving their privileged economic position and taking a risky stand for an independent Finland.
For the 1954 re-release, producer Erik Blomberg cut 15 minutes out of the film. The original 101 minute version hasn't been shown since, yet the cut parts are preserved. The preserved uncut version was shown by The Finnish National Audiovisual Instute on the 15 of August 2017. See more »
Beautifully atmospheric - deserves to be more widely known
Nyrki Tapiovaara is the great lost genius of Finnish cinema - he died in action in 1940, aged 29, having completed only five films, of which two can be accounted mature works.
There was some talk about ten years ago that Varastettu Kuolema - Stolen Death - would be part of a British National Film Theatre Project to make available a central corpus of important cinema. I don't know what became of that; the film does not appear to be available in the UK, and when I saw it in Finland recently it was in a print of mediocre quality, with poor sound quality and no subtitles. So I saw a silent film with snatches of dialogue.
But then that is a big test of a film - does it work visually? Varastettu Kuolema undoubtedly does. You can see who is on what side at a time when being on the right side is a matter of more than loyalty, it is a matter of life and death. The characters are rounded and realistic. The use of outside locations is bold - and many of those locations are the same now as they were in 1918, when the film was set, in 1938, when it was made, and today. (It's strange and moving to see the city where you live in this way.) The set pieces all work.
The overall effect is of Nordic noir, not to be repeated until nearly fifty years later, when the Kaurismaki brothers started to take up where Tapiovaara had been tragically forced to leave off.
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