The movie summarizes the life of Jean Sibelius in a 'Greatest Hits' - fashion, skipping from one event in the composer's life to the next, sometimes with gaps of several years between individual scenes. Real drama is given no chance to emerge at any point in the movie. Even as a dramatised biography it fails - a viewer who has no prior knowledge of Sibelius' life will probably be lost and confused. Important cultural figures that affected the composer's life are introduced in large numbers, checklist-style, without deeper character development for any of them. On occasion I even found it difficult to link some of the names to the faces (Armas Järnefelt, Sibelius' brother-in-law, was mentioned several times, but gosh darn, who the hell of the faces up on the screen was it?).
There are numerous subplots and minor characters in the movie which aren't advanced in any way or serve no purpose. E.g. the Austrian countess (Niina Nurminen) who appears in two short scenes, adds nothing to the movie - the character simply does not have enough screen time to contribute anything. In the first scene she meets Sibelius at a dance ball. Near the end of the movie, they meet again many years later, and have a conversation that suggest they were once very close. The viewer is not given a slightest reason to care.
The strongest candidates for a dramatic arc (with the largest amount of screentime devoted to them) are the romance between Aino and Jean, and the Sibelius' creative difficulties due to his immense self-criticism. Neither storyline goes anywhere. An incomprehensible directorial choice is placing Aino's and Jean's wedding scene _immediately_ after a scene where Jean confesses to infidelity to his fiancee. Gee, guess she forgave him then...
On the case of Sibelius' reluctance to accept anything but perfection in his music, we are shown scenes of the master boozing it up with other artists, interspersed with images of Jean tearing out his hair in front of a piano and an empty notation sheet. Even the director has apparently noticed his failure to penetrate Sibelius' creative process by cinematic means, and has decides to condense the artist's dilemma into a single line of expositional dialogue: "It is by my work that I will be later remembered."
The soundtrack employs plenty of Sibelius' music, but generally with a tacked-on feel, as if the director expected the music to create the emotion that is obviously absent in the picture. There are a few high points: for example, the scene where the composer's daughter falls ill in Italy, the finale from the 2nd Symphony has been used to good effect. The scene where Sibelius composes Valse Triste has a good idea behind it ("Can you hear the violins?") but it falls flat on its face due to sheer dramatic clumsiness.
The cast is of highly variable quality. Veteran thespians Heikki Nousiainen and Seela Sella, as old Jean and Aino, manage to squeeze incredible performances out of their unbelievably banal lines. Vesa Vierikko (Kajanus), Kunto Ojansivu (Adolf Paul) and Suosalo (young Sibelius) also conduct themselves well. On the other hand, some of the performances give reason to believe that several actors in minor roles have been recruited from among the director's beer buddies.
Technically the movie is competently made. The costumes and sets are convincing and create the period fairly well. Somewhat disturbing is the prolific use of long shots. I can imagine the director on the set, saying "Let's use a steadycam here and save on editing"! A good example of this is the fight between Jean and his author friend, Adolph Paul. It is mostly in one continuous shot, spinning around the room to give susceptible people motion sickness.
On the whole, Koivusalo has managed to create a biographical movie about Jean Sibelius that tells almost nothing about Jean Sibelius. At no point in the did I feel that the story or the characters were evolving or going anywhere. This is a haphazard collection of mostly unconnected events from the life of the Finnish national composer.