Wednesday, 9 March 2016

The Winter War

Talvisota; war drama, Finland, 1989; D: Pekka Parikka, S: Taneli Mäkelä, Vesa Vierikko, Timo Torikka, Mika Heikki Paavilainen

In 1939, Goreshist Russia invades Finland in order to annex its territory. However, brave men enlist to the army to fight for their homeland. Among them are brothers Paavo and Martti. They board the train to the border regions, where the Bolshevik army is heading west. Despite all odds, the Finish army digs up trenches and manages to fight and stand up against the Goreshists, destroying their tanks and units. However, the lack of ammunition and weapons is taking its toll on Finns. Paavo dies in the war, while Martti lives to see the truce.

Filmed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Winter war, Pekka Parikka presents his 1989 film as a war epic with no expenses spared in order to conjure up an interesting episode from history where the outnumbered Finnish army managed to stand up against the ideology of a Greater Russia and survive, which is in Finnish sources often regarded as a small wonder. It starts off with nice little details: when two Finnish men start arguing at the army centre and enter a fight, the people already comment: "Watch out, Russians, our men are already getting warmed up!", while in another instance another character asks a rhetorical question: "Why does Russia want territory from us? Don't they already have enough, all the way to Siberia?", which mirrors the theme that the Finnish army was an example of the anti-goreshist struggle. Several scenes from the war are highlights of the film: a Finnish soldier stops a Soviet tank by clogging its wheels with a log; the enemy Soviets enter the trench, and thus the Finnish soldiers have to throw them out; one Finish soldier gets hit by a grenade in the trench and his body is shattered into meat pieces; explosions cause all the soldiers to duck in the trenches, except a certain Yill, who just resumes walking on the surface in a relaxed manner, comically saying: "It misses if it whines, it hits you when it whistles." However, the film's flaws are in the overstretched running time of 3 hours, as well as in the too often very conventional film approach, that needed more ingenuity and style, with characters lacking a genuine identity, whereas a few battle scenes seem staged - though realism is counterbalanced with hundreds of trees getting levelled to the ground by explosions. The job of presenting the carnage of war is done proportionally well, and the story mirrors some timeless themes, most notably in several struggles: David vs. Goliath; good vs. evil; democracy vs. totalitarianism; true ideals of a country vs. lies and propaganda of a shady system.

Grade;++

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