Old Film Magazines

18.01.2016

I bought two old Finnish film magazines from a second-hand bookshop. Filmin kasvot was published between 1945 and 1949, Elokuva-aitta between 1932 and 1968. On the cover of Elokuva-aitta (5/1948) is one of my favourite film stars, Lea Joutseno. On the cover of Filmin kasvot (3/1946) is of course Hedy Lamarr.

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These magazines are so adorable, sweet and innocent. Clearly meant for the young female film fan. There are articles about international films and Finnish films as well. And Hollywood gossip 😛 There is a column for readers to ask questions about film stars and how to send letters asking for an autograph.

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What I like the most is that there are reviews of films from non-English-speaking countries. Like in Filmin kasvot there is a short review of a Norwegian film Vi vil leve (1946) and a Danish film De rĂžde enge (1945). These days it is quite rare in Finland to see international films in mainstream cinemas. Or to even read about them in (women’s) magazines. If I wanted to see either of these films, would it be possible? De rĂžde enge is available on dvd in a Danish online store but… no subtitles. I might understand some Danish but hardly enough.

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Swedish actress Birgit Tengroth was also a writer. Her first book, a short story collection called “Thirst” (Törst in Swedish, Jano in Finnish), was published in 1948 and it caused a stir because of it’s frank references to sex, adultery, abortion, homosexuality and marriage problems from a woman’s perspective. For a contemporary reader this isn’t shocking but some seventy years ago women weren’t expected to write about these things. Ingmar Bergman adapted Thirst in to a film that is quite loyal to the original work. Actually the book is perfect material for a Bergman film with larger than life themes, troubled people and serious dialogue. The book is apparently somewhat autobiographical and the author herself actually plays one of the roles in the film. Thirst is not dated as it reveals the double standard that still exists at least to some extent. It’s an intense read but definitely worthwhile. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be an English version of the book available.

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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 lĂ€htee 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.

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