1960 was busy time for director Aarne Tarkas who completed no less than five feature films that year. The quality varies; out of the five movies, Opettajatar seikkailee is very entertaining while Kankkulan kaivolla is just daft and boring. Nina ja Erik, Tarkas' first movie of the year, strives to be a serious drama about young people's restlessness, but has lost some of its effect over the years.
The first thing we see is a trial where two young men called Erik Vaara and Heikki Korte (Martti Katajisto and Ville-Veikko Salminen) are sentenced to prison and a young woman Nina Swahn (Pirkko Mannola) to probation. Nina goes on to have a discussion with Erik's father (Tauno Palo), prompting several flashbacks to illustrate how things became what they are: Nina and Erik are originally frustrated with their wealthy parents when meeting each other in the countryside and quickly fall in love with each other. However, Erik's thinly veiled anger toward his father and jealousy to Nina's tough ex-boyfriend Heikki a.k.a. Hessu cause things to develop into a dangerous direction.
The always lovely Pirkko Mannola is clearly the highlight of the movie that otherwise often seems overly serious and pompous; I just wish her character had been written more diverse than the always positive sidekick for the men that she is now. The laughably overage Martti Katajisto (in his thirties!) is anything but convincing as the brooding young man barely out of his teens whose menacing fits of anger are supposed to drive the plot forward, but do so way too slowly to be interesting. The young couple's romantic strolling on a beach and in a forest cabin could technically be fitting in a more atmospheric film, but here they feel prolonged and even dull in spite of Pirkko Mannola's charisma and skimpy swimsuits. Tauno Palo also comes across as rather stiff as Erik's father. Still, the cool Ville-Veikko Salminen is funny as the car-stealing bad boy Hessu, intentionally or not.
Furthermore, the heavy-handed style is emphasized by the dramatic and frequently sentimental score. Even though Nina ja Erik is not completely hopeless, it would have really needed a more relaxed attitude to the subject matter to work well as a portrayal of young people's emotional turmoil – the building blocks of the story just don't fall into place here. I would only recommend this one to the biggest Pirkko Mannola fans; she even gets to sing one little song during a party scene.
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