June, 1941: Trapped between two repressive regimes, Finland has little choice but to ally itself with Nazi Germany against its traditional foe - although it manages to remain a democracy throughout. Virtually unknown in the WW ll arena, a brutal war against Soviet occupation takes place in the Far North. As the men of a Finnish infantry unit march through the forests of Karelia to regain territory lost to Russia in the Winter War of 1939, each of them soon realizes the horror and pointlessness of war. Except for their officers, more concerned about medals and personal glory than the lives of their men. A diverse group of men, all at odds with how they see themselves, each other, and the common cause - yet they are strengthened by a growing bond of camaraderie to each other and their loved ones. After huge personal sacrifice and a prolonged trench war, the outcome is inevitable, ending with a ceasefire in September 1944.Written by
Beta Film GmbH
Finland's alliance with Germany came with conditions..... one of those was freedom for the Jews. There was no persecution, segregation or death camps. Hundreds of Jews were deported from Germany to Finland adding to the already present Jewish population, with some actually joining the Finnish army to fight against Russia. Imagine that... being a Jewish soldier, fighting in favor a German ally in a German made uniform, while your relatives are being put to death in Germany...... Only 8 Jews were deported from Finland to death camps in German occupied Europe, they being previously deported Austrian Jews. 7 of those 8 were immediately executed upon arrival. In the year 2000, the Prime Minister of Finland issued a formal apology for this. See more »
After the wedding everyone walks out from the church.
One woman in brown coat seems to have a foot injury, but the blue support around the foot looks very modern. See more »
There are three distinct versions of this film: Finnish version (180 minutes), international version (167 minutes) and miniseries version (271 minutes). See more »
In Finland, we have a tradition to tell the story of WW2 as we actually almost won the war against the Soviet Union which is of course true in the sense that Finland was not occupied by the Soviet Union. After the painful war, the Unknown Soldier was a novel that was appreciated therapy for the wounded nation and it introduced dozens of catch phrases and iconic characters that were needed for the healing process. Every Finn can quote the book, often in a cheerful manner. Ask any Finn in the late hours in the bar and they will keep going forever.
The novel has been filmed twice before but the present version is the best and the most ambitious. Here, in the modernized version of the Unknown Soldier, the war between Finland and the Soviet Union is brutal, exhausting and devastating, and definitely Finland does not almost win the war. The humor used by the characters is a coping mechanism and is not used as a national therapy.
We see a beautiful and melancholic film that is very sincere. Finland fights side by side with Germany which may have been necessary to fight the Soviet Union, but usually the fact is hidden beneath Finnish pride of independence. Now, we see Hitler visiting Finland, we see Nazi flags.
We see how men are gradually broken. The heroes die, and in the end, the most unlikely characters still need to fight. The four main characters, Koskela, Rokka, Kariluoto and Hietanen are all played very well by leading Finnish actors. I was especially moved by Koskela played by Jussi Vatanen, who reminds me of Damian Lewis as Richard Winters in Band of Brothers. However, Rokka played by Eero Aho is the center and the heart of the movie. The opening scene with two swimming boys, filmed like in a Terence Malick movie, is the starting point for the story of Rokka who is brave, keeps the good spirit, encourages and teaches younger ones. In the end, he shows in one last scene how the defeat feels after several years of fighting. He endures but is not anymore the same cheerful happy farmer. Eero Aho tells the story of losing the war in a superb way. He should definitely be nominated for Jussi, the Finnish Oscar.
The film is a bit long and has some scenes like the compulsory "Finns getting really drunk" scenes that I always found rather boring. However, the film is so much better than the original war novel. My Finnish teacher tried to explain the idea of the original novel in the 80's: You will first get to know all the main characters, you really start to like them, and then, suddenly, one by one they are taken away from you. Now, in this film, I finally understood what my literature teacher wanted to make us to see in the Unknown Soldier novel.
In Finland, the reviews of the film have been really polarized, which reflects the unique importance of the Unknown Soldier for Finns. It is the story of endurance and suffering. This is not as good as TV series Band of Brothers, not as good as Unsere Mutter Unsere Väter (Generation War) or Saving Private Ryan. However, this is a solid war film using Finnish perspective and with two amazing actors in main roles, Jussi Vatanen and Eero Aho.
This year is the 100th anniversary of the independent Finland. The film is humble but strong, like the story of Finland, as I like to see it. My rating 7/10 aims to be objective but as a Finn, the objective rating of the Unknown Soldier is impossible. Yet, I recommend the film for everybody who aims to understand Finnish history and the way we see the world.
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