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Antti Alanen: Film Diary:

Tuntematon sotilas / Unknown Soldier (2017) (the long version)

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MAKING OF Tuntematon sotilas. Retreat – hell. Karjula (Janne Virtanen) disciplines Koskela (Jussi Vatanen). The production team at work. Photo: Tommi Hynynen © Elokuvaosakeyhtiö Suomi 2017. FI 2017. PC: Elokuvaosakeyhtiö Suomi 2017. D: Aku Louhimies. For cast and credits see my blog note of 12 October 2017: Tuntematon sotilas (2017) .     Viewed: the long version released on television, web services and home formats. Part 1  Komea on alku / [A Glorious Start] Part 2  Petroskoi, Petroskoi Part 3  Hänen upseeriensa malja / [A Toast for His Officers] Part 4  Tavallisen suruton poika / [Happy Go Lucky] Part 5  Hyväntahtoinen aurinko / [A Benevolent Sun]     Each part ca 55 min, total duration 270 min = 4½ hours     Dvd – SF Studios     Viewed at home, Helsinki, 26 Aug 2019 THE LONG AND THE SHORT VERSION Theatrical version (2017): 180 min = 3 hours Five part television version (2018): 270 min = 4½ hours Previously I had only seen the gala premiere of the theatrical version. Now for the first time I saw the long television version, one third longer. I need to see both versions again to make up my mind on their respective value. Väinö Linna's novel The Unknown Soldier (1954) is so rich that there is certainly a point in editing a television mini-series version in an age of high profile television series and binge watching. MY INITIAL RESPONSE TO THE THEATRICAL VERSION I wrote about my reaction to the theatrical version two years ago. To sum up: – There is no more gore and splatter than in Mollberg's version. – Louhimies's version is more character-driven than Mollberg's. – The cinematography is digital for the first time in The Unknown Soldier. – A handheld / Steadicam look is not obvious unlike in Mollberg. – Thanks to the digital, the look is neither studio-lit like in Laine nor obscure like in Mollberg. – There are intensive rapid shots of close combat and even underwater shots. – Unlike in Mollberg the colour is drained. A steely blue gray hue is dominant. – The performances are different and original. – Jussi Vatanen as Koskela is deeply moving, perhaps the most deeply moving of all Koskelas on film. – Also Aku Hirviniemi as Hietanen rises to the occasion and might be the best screen Hietanen. – Eero Aho as Rokka is a surprising casting coup, certainly effective. He is a great actor. He does not have the innate Karelian gut feeling, but he overcomes the obstacle successfully. – Joonas Saartamo as Lahtinen changes the character. He is no longer a figure of fun but a tragic incarnation of the contradictions of the age. – This film adaptation is the first in which the makers had no access to Linna personally. – But it is also the first that had access to the original Sotaromaani version, the uncut manuscript published in 2000. The summer attack of the Red Army in 1944 is conveyed more powerfully, and the desperate situation of Koskela and Kariluoto rises to full tragic grandeur for the first time. Coverage of this is the essential new distinction of the film adaptation of Louhimies. – Like Laine but unlike Mollberg, Louhimies accesses vintage newsreel footage for period context. Laine used it in a way that was inseparable from staged scenes – it was seamless. Louhimies uses the footage diegetically: men see newsreels in cinemas at home and in the front. It is a rewarding documentation in many ways. NEW OBSERVATIONS BASED ON THE LONG VERSION – Animated maps help make sense of the action. – There is a bit more spark, parody and humour than in Mollberg. ("New amazing pages to the Finnish war history"). – Action sequences are assured, well staged and directed such as the crossing of the river and the storming afterwards. – The occupation of Petroskoi has full epic scope in Louhimies. – The character of Rahikainen as scavenger and pimp is fully revealed in Louhimies. – There is often a fast edit but the camera is steady. – Pantheism is at its strongest in Louhimies, with Malick affinities. These are korpisoturi warriors = wild forest warriors after all. They are at one with the forest, the river, the swamp. As are Russians, no doubt. – The colour is so drained that the image is often quasi monochrome. – The performers do not sing, not even Paula Vesala, a trained singer. They do not sing from the heart, with their full being, like everybody did back then. They hum. – About private life and home life I remember Samuel Fuller's advice: in a war film, don't show it. – Lahtinen does have more space in Louhimies. – On Mannerheim's birthday it occurred to me that both the officers and the soldiers offend him with songs: the officers with "Horst Wessel" (Mannerheim found Nazis disgusting) and the soldiers with "The March of the Red Guard" (Mannerheim was the commander of the White Guard). This is of course true in all film adaptations. – The character of Mäkilä feels somewhat crushed both in Mollberg and Louhimies. – The scene with Lammio and Honkajoki is included, but it is lacking in intensity. – The fall of Hietanen is powerful. – The firestorm of the summer of 1944 is terrifying. – The bravery of Kariluoto and Koskela is unforgettable. Kariluoto obeys the commands, Koskela defies them. Both face the consequences. In Louhimies, there is an aspect of suicide in both. – The fate of Ukkola is most moving in Louhimies. – Kotilainen, Karjula and Viirilä personify the desperation of the final stage. In Louhimies, Karjula dies, unlike in Mollberg. – The final river crossing with Rokka rescuing Susi gets full symbolical value in Louhimies. "Kaveria ei jätetä". "Never abandon your buddy". HOW FAR WE'VE COME FROM THE RIVER Comparing the three film adaptations it is striking how different they are. Not only technically (one is in black and white, the second in colour, and the third in digital and scope). The biggest difference is in their record of how much we have changed. It is a matter of something more than acting. Our way of being has changed.

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