2013 m. vasario 26 d., antradienis

2013 m. vasario 18 d., pirmadienis

“Juha“ – Worldwide Cinematic Phenomenon

“Juha“ (1999) by Aki Kaurismäki“

   Juhani Aho`s classical Finnish novel “Juha“ (1911) was applied to cinema four times and two times to operas. The novel got the attention also worldwide. The first film version – silent film in 1921 was created by Swedish filmmakers, later versions made by Finnish filmmakers. The latest version was made in 1999 by Aki Kaurismäki. In his version he replaces the narrative from 17-18th century, where originally it takes place, to 1970s and inverts some ideas originally expressed in the novel on his own needs.

   A farmer Juha and his wife Marja lives their happy life in the Finnish countryside, but soon one day Shemeikka with his elegant American car appears in the horizon. The car breaks and while Juha fixes it, a new stranger tries to seduce his wife. She resists, but later she realizes that he was a chance to have a life she is dreaming of, so when he is back to the village, she escapes with him. At first, everything looks perfect for her, but later he jails her in the brothel together with other lovers. Marja decides to escape, but then she gets to know that she is pregnant with Shemeikka`s child, so she stays. Meanwhile Juha is left alone in the village suffering for the loss of his wife.

    It was not the first film when Kaurismäki took the classical novel and replaced it to newer times – he did it with “Hamlet Goes Business” (1987) and “Crime and Punishment” (1983). But he does not only replace the narrative, but also modernizes the characters and inverts the ideas to nowadays. For example, in Kaurismäki`s “Juha” the idea of nationalism (Shemeikka, trader from East Karelia – something evil (bad is something connected to Russia, the Eastern occupier) is replaced by the good/bad confrontation of village and the city. In Finnish film history, films we see that village is something pure and innocent, while city is something where the sins are. Kaurismäki also adds this confrontation to his film with Shemeikka`s character who represents the city from which he is coming from (in the film it is cleared out that is Helsinki, some famous objects as the Railway station or Sokos hotel are shown and used in the narrative). Also social problems such as alcoholism or the position of woman in the society are touched. Even though, Kaurismäki replaces the characters and the narrative to 1970s, the universal and timeless ideas about love and the human tragedy expressed in the novel are in the film. The director constructs the characters from the clichés and by using cinematic simplification (Marja, typical village girl dreaming about the prince and city life, Shemeikka, typical don-juan), the inner dramas of characters` are expressed. Especially Juho`s and Marja`s (after the moment when she realizes where she is and that there is no escape), Shemeikka`s character doesn`t show any feelings even in the moment of his death – he is dehumanized. Also in the Kaurismäki`s film Juha`s line is changed – in the novel originally he suicides, in the newest version he kills the seducer of his wife, but also after the fight dies himself. Usually violence in Kaurismäki films is something what never leads to good (vice versa than in Hollywood films – hero usually is the one who kills the enemy), here Kaurismäki plays with the genre – on one hand, Juha becomes a hero after making his revenge, on the other hand – he dies in the dump. This is a kind of symbolic ethical deheroization of character – the character doesn`t reach anything with the murder, by braking the rule of society and killing, he automatically pushes himself out of society – becomes a dump for it.

   The film is also worth attention stylistically. Kaurismäki takes a challenge in story telling and decides to make a silent film, accompanied by the music (not always emphasizes the dramatic mood). There not a lot of dialogues and they appear in the intertitles as it is usual for silent films. Also the Black & White aesthetics is chosen. In the end of the film (the scenes in the brothel) we can also find aesthetic references to Film Noir. The eras are mixed up – that`s what is also usual for Kaurismäki. He plays with the melodramatic silent film genre (that`s also as the village as a place for paradise is a reference to the Finnish film history), he mocks at the genre playing with clichés.  The director is ironical not only with the form, but also with the content of the film (f. e. The motive of a massive three-foot wrench to the engine). Even though the human tragedy is depicted , so the film can be described as tragicomical.

    The famous Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki is also known worldwide and he brings the classical Finnish novel to cinemas in all the world. Even though he uses some references to Finnish history, identity and films, his film “Juha“ can be understood and well accepted worldwide (that can be proven by mentioning the Berlinale Film Festival award the film got), mostly because of the attractive film form and the universal human feelings depicted in the novel.

Written for my Finnish film class back in JYU, 2012

pirmosios pūslės ant pirštų. laiptinėje prietema, koja už kojos slenku koja aukštyn, viršutinė palto saga atsisegusi, šalikas atsilapojęs, nuo vieno peties nusmukusi kuprinės petnešėlė

2013 m. vasario 12 d., antradienis

Miserablism in Frozen Land (2005) and Frozen City (2006)

   The two films by Finnish director Aku Louhimies “Frozen Land” and “Frozen City” tests the edges of the dark human nature, shows the dark side of Finnish society and its social problems both lack of hope and lightening elements and can be described as miserablistic.
   “Frozen City” talks about a man, a father, who works a taxi driver and whose wife one day just doesn`t come back from her holiday, so he takes care of their three children. When the wife is finally back – it is clear that the couple can continue together, so they start the process of divorce. Wife tries to make everything that the husband would see the children less and less. That is the first thing what makes the main character to feel oppressed and nervous, so it causes his impulsively rude and violent behavior at his work and finally he loses the job. Then he has debts, an irritating neighbor, finally, when he tries to pick up a woman in the bar – she appears to be a prostitute and asks money, which he doesn`t have, he is drunk and feels humiliated in all possible ways. All this leads to meaningless violence. The film draws the psychological portrait of the protagonist by placing him among nearly all the possible worst things that can happen for a man – loss of family, job and freedom. The film depicts the crisis of men in Finland (also as in a documentary “Steam of Life”). The shame of the character is awakened and according to Finnish historian Juha Siltala, unemployment causes the strongest feeling of shame for the Finnish men. Also social oppression and closed modern city life causes the feeling of loneliness. The character is left nearly without any hope. Just some in the end of the film after unsuccessful attempt of a suicide when he lies in the jail hospital a sunshine lights into his eyes.

   In “Frozen Land” a school teacher of literature is fired from his job due to the change of school profile to the exact sciences. As a result, he spends his time drinking and fighting at home with his son Niko. Finally, Niko is thrown out from home, he is hanging around with his best friend Tuomas and Tuomas' girlfriend. He (while dazed from drugs) forges a 500 € banknote and uses it at a pawnshop. The pawnshop owner forks it over to a low-rent half-crook salesman named Isto… The is a story constructed from sub-narratives (network narrative) and all of them are connected that gives the impression that people`s fates are meaningfully connected. All the events are devastating and totally pessimistic, “Frozen Land” also doesn`t offer any hope until the end of the film when we see that Niko was able to start a normal life. But he is the only one. The film gives the idea that every wrong movement causes some other wrong one what leads to violence, crime or disaster. Even though the film world is totally pessimistic it leaves the ethical moral with a reference to The Decalogue that if the wrong actions are not taken, there still is hope, light and also the way back (the example of Niko).

   So the both films mostly talk about the lower part of society and its social problems as drugs or alcohol, alienation of society, lack of solidarity, social oppression – the environment that causes loneliness and the feeling of no way out. The film depicts the total loss of paradise even though the action is taking place during the economical boom. This can be seen as an opposition to Kaurismäki`s Proletariat trilogy which also talks about the lower part of society and its problems during the economical boom, but still there is much more hope and the paradise is not lost, it is just “Shadows in Paradise”. We are left to judge what is more objective to reality.

Written for my Finnish Cinema class back in JYU, 2012.

 supermodel Karen Elson and former bassist with The Smashing Pumpkins and Hole, Melissa Auf der Maur, performing singing cover, Danzig's 'Devil's Plaything', at the Chelsea Hotel in New York.

2013 m. vasario 6 d., trečiadienis


The trees, the roofs, the pavements are covered with fresh white snow, in the night it is sparkling as the fairies would have had some grand funeral ceremony and have spilled the ashes of their queen all over the town. Adriel tiptoes through the calm and overshadowed street of wooden houses with the only light illuminating her road. She feels the smell of burning wood – the typical smell of cold winter night in her hometown. She haven`t thought about this before – this is what she was missing in the city. The sparkles are going up from the chimneys to the cloudless and starred night sky.

She reaches the club. People are lining up or at least trying to give the wildness of Saturday`s night a shred of structure. Some tries to join their friends keeping a place in the queue, so the queue loses the form of line, some teenagers without coats try to prove they have already been inside, some already got their couples and hurriedly wriggles along outside through the line for a cigarette as a pretext to stay together without a noise of a party and to charm a partner. And here is a girl with a short skirt, barely hiding her tattered pantyhose. She hysterically shouts disjoint words into the phone, her cosmetics, washed by the cry, are all over her face, she goes straight to the door without paying any attention to the queue, a guard stops her, asks to leave, she tries to beat him, she falls, her head hits into the icy pavement...

Adriel finally comes in and pays for the ticket. She climbs up the stairs, already hears the music and some nostalgic amazement overcomes her: “They play the same songs as 7 years ago – The Killers, The Smiths, The Cure, The...“

She gets a drink, the dance floor is crowded and full of sound and movement, people floats between the bar and the dance floor. A bit ahead she sees a girl with whom she used to sit in the same desk during biology, wear short skirts and irritate the boys awakening their interest in biology even more. She is still with a short skirt, high heels, shiny clubbish T-shirt and blond hair – a typical province girl as we would imagine. With a friendly wonder she squeezes through people to reach Adriel: “How are you, where have you been, what are you doing here?..“
„I am a photographer. I came her for my series...“ Adriel answers in loud voice so the girl could hear here over the music, but DJ switches a new song, a gasp of amusement echoes through the room, a hand grabs her old school friend, so she vanishes in the float of people moving along to the craziness of the dance floor.

Adriel puts her empty glass onto the bar and orders a new drink. A hand with a bottle of lemonade joins her. Lemonade. They used to drink lemonade while sitting on the edge of the plough. It used to be soft, warm and sunny summer days, the space used to be filled with the violins of the grasshoppers and the singing of birds. They are in the center of the dance floor craziness. Boys Don`t Cry. His hands are so masculine now... He shouts to her ear: “The floors are sticky...“ She notices that really in fact her movement is a bit restrained by the sticky floor, “Yeah...“ she agrees. “You know, it is the first day when I came back here after the long time... Remember… remember the days, days with the lemonade?..“ But he doesn`t seem to hear and care, his glimpses are towards the another girl with a typical province look as we would imagine. The girl is trying to get her way out of the dance floor. “You know, let`s go out for some fresh air?” he asks.

Adriel smokes her cigarette and observes the street, so lively on the Saturday night, also as the memories are so alive in her head. Here is an old man with a beard mumbling something under his nose and staggering through. All town used to know him – he used to live in the outskirts, alone, just with his bear. The bear was called Justin. They used to eat, walk, fish and go to sauna together. People were afraid of his bear and talk about him as a stranger. But he didn`t drink and didn`t look mad back in those days.

And there - is a shopping center, there Adriel used to go shopping with her father on Sundays. She used to jump in into the child`s seat of the shopping wheel, her father used to run through the shelves… She throws her cigarette, gives a “good-bye” wink to the sunny-day-lemonade guy and enters back inside.

Words like violence, break the silence, come crashing in… As she was a teenager, she used to sit on the swings, sing this song and neighbor girl used to praise her voice. Adriel wanted to become a singer. And they used to sing this song in this club with her first love, he kissed her right here, in this club, the first time. They used to dance, to dream, to run away from cops

Everything sparkles with memories, as fairies would have had a grand ceremony... She gets a new drink. A new dancing partner appears. You could have always seen him reading in the school library. He used to follow her and bunch of her girlfriends with a claim to analyze them. He used to ring the doorbell of her place on Sundays just to see her without make-up. With a quick move he takes Adriel into his arms and kisses her with a tongue.

a drunken boredom, run away, turn away, run away, turn away, run away, no one cares, they are not reaching anything, just their instincts to be pleased, they are just sinking here, they just cry and fall on the ice, sticky floor, they wait in queue, wait in the club until lights go up, until there is the last chance to get a partner for the night--- these dirty hands

The sound of construction work behind the window wakes her up. A drumming sound joined by the song of a bird. She is silently picking up her clothes lying all around the room on the floor. Just not to wake a masculine hand stretched all over the bed.

Written for the course Creativity and The Process of Writing back in JYU, 2012

2013 m. vasario 2 d., šeštadienis