This is my third post for the Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge 2016.

I really wanted to like The Group (Finnish translation Ryhmä). It’s a story of eight young women who graduate from Vassar in 1933. It is the time of the Great Depression but these women are not really the ones to suffer because of it. They have time to worry about other things such as extramarital sex, birth control, miscarriages, cheating husbands, violent dates, sexism in the work place, mental health issues and lesbianism. Controversial subjects in the 1930s and also in 1963 when the book was published. These days not so much. I am sad to say but I found both the book and the film (directed by Sidney Lumet in 1966) tedious and dated. I didn’t care for any of the characters and I didn’t understand why they were friends in the first place. Also, eight main characters is just too much. Trying to get to know all of them is difficult. The movie is 150 minutes long and in desperate need of editing. The cast is pretty great with Candice Bergen, Shirley Knight and Richard Mulligan to name a few. And kudos to the costume department, the look and style are impeccable. Apparently The Group was an inspiration to Candace Bushnell when she wrote Sex and the City. However, SATC hasn’t yet lost its attraction unlike The Group.

 

ryhmä

Cover of Ryhmä 

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DVD Cover

 

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Film scholar Sakari Toiviainen’s book about the legendary Finnish film director Nyrki Tapiovaara is short and (bitter)sweet. Nyrki Tapiovaara (1911-1940) was the hope of Finnish cinema. He started his career as a film critic and theatre director. In 1937 he made his film debut with Juha (based on the novel by Juhani Aho). After that Tapiovaara directed four more films. He was killed in action in the last days of Winter War. Tapiovaara didn’t get to finish his last film Miehen tie and it was completed by his colleagues Erik Blomberg, Mirjami Kuosmanen and Hugo Hytönen.

Toiviainen’s book isn’t really a biography as it is a thorough analysis of all five films. Of course Toiviainen recounts Tapiovaara’s main life events but doesn’t go into much detail about his private life. Toiviainen’s book is a story of an extremely talented and creative individual who had a unique vision and who found his outlet in film. Tapiovaara was born into a bourgeois family but became a left-wing artist who socialized with members of the legendary literary group Tulenkantajat (The Flame Bearers). He was very interested in international cinema (especially French and Soviet films) and was active in a film club called Projektio. In his films Tapiovaara experimented with new filmmaking ideas and techniques and mixed genres in a way that had never been seen in Finnish cinema. Toiviainen analyzes Tapiovaara’s films with great knowledge. He has done much research and found interesting quotes about the director, for example director/cinematographer Erik Blomberg (who is not without merit himself!) is quoted saying that in all his years in the business, he never met anyone as talented as Nyrki Tapiovaara. Tapiovaara’s letter excerpts from the front reveal how the ideology of a young man had changed, how he had become a grown-up, ready to serve his country and happy to do so. The one thing that I really appreciate about this book is that it is a perfect example of all the information and photographs that are not available on the internet. How many times have I heard that books are obsolete, everything is on the internet. Well that simply isn’t true!

Tapiovaara’s reputation as the most talented Finnish director is not unfounded although not many get to witness it these days. His films are seldom seen on television and have never been released on dvd. His fourth film Herra Lahtinen lähtee lipettiin was partly lost and destroyed, only about 40 minutes survived. I have only seen Tapiovaara’s historical thriller Varastettu kuolema at the National Film Archive and it was a pretty special occasion. The film hasn’t aged like so many it’s contemporaries. Reading Toiviainen’s book made me melancholy. If only Tapiovaara had survived the war.

tapiovaara