Kalle Kaarna was a talented director, whose almost all features (10 out of 13) were lost before 60's or burned in the fire at archives of Adams-Filmi. Later on, two of his films were found in the United States ("Tukkijoella" and "Elinan surma") and this one, "Isoviha", from Sweden.
"Isoviha" was not made by any major Finnish production company at the time, so it is made very cheap, with very primitive technology. This is seen in the poor quality of sound recording and film material. The subject and approach is related to the Finnish wave of nationalistic spectacles made before WW2 ("Jääkärin morsian", "Helmikuun manifesti", "Aktivistit"...) and the atmosphere is as patriotic as in these, but otherwise the film looks more original and genuine. The story sets in the 18th century when Finland was violently but only temporarily invaded by the Russians. I think that if they would have made films back then, the result would have looked very similar with "Isoviha". This is not an insult; on the contrary, the films style is fascinating. Sort of dogmatic, rough and honest.
Young leading players (Hilkka Helinä, Kalevi Mykkänen, Santeri Karilo) play their parts with great melodramatic sense. Older players try to present some comic scenes in the manner of folk anecdotes, but they are far too unfunny and slow. Music is also very bad. But many images are just amazing! Kaarna was originally a painter so he had a terrific visual sense. Check out the scene where the Russian invaders ride with their horses in the church, in the middle of the service, flogging people and shooting the priest! Or the last duel between the Cossack and the Finnish army soldier in the lake.
With censorship "Isoviha" had many problems. Many quotes that were too insulting against the Russians were cut off, but when the Winter War started, the film had it's premiere uncut. After WW2 it was completely banned. The only remaining version is the uncut one, shown in Sweden, so it has all the hilarious racist comments on it.
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