Thursday, October 09, 2008

Jörn Donner: Mustaa valkoisella (1968)

Kristiina Hautala: 'Kielletyt käskyt' (off Mustaa valkoisella, 1968)

  • More Kristiina Hautala @ YouTube

    It was nice seeing Jörn Donner's (a renaissance man of Finland's Swedish-speaking minority, who has worked as a writer, film-maker & producer and politician) Mustaa valkoisella ("Black on White", 1968) again last weekend on YLE Teema. Here the non-actor Donner (surely a lost Scandinavian cousin to Humphrey Bogart) plays in his laconic style Juha Holm, a 36-year old fridge salesman who gets into a relationship with a 19-year old female clerk called Maria Constanza (Kristiina Halkola) from the same company.

    We see in the film's very start how a magazine has chosen Holm, his wife (Liisamaija Laaksonen) and their two children "The Family of the Year", in a tightly cut narrative where a fussy voiceover tells about their immaculate modern family life; apparently a hollow facade which gradually starts to crumble during the film. Juha Holm, going through a mid-life crisis and being stressed by his job, is warned by his doctor about drinking and smoking too much. A surprisingly romantic and literary side of Holm, often appearing in the film only cold and detached, is revealed when he recites to Maria Constanza a love poem written by Pablo Neruda (a Chilean poet very much in vogue among the leftist Finnish youth of the day), only leaving her bemused and with no comment.

    Partly a drama on relationships, partly a social satire, especially juicy are the comical scenes where are followed the desperate efforts of Holm's workmates (played by other amateur actors, Jukka Virtanen, a Jack of all trades in Finnish entertainment, and crooner/songwriter/popular composer Lasse Mårtenson) to create a commercial film to sell fridges, more or less unsuccessfully using female models in leotards as accessories. The beautifully restored film copy in its bright colours (Esko Nevalainen's cinematography won Jussi, Finnish counterpart to Academy Awards) essentially captures the late-60s Finnish Zeitgeist (oops, another over-used expression). Kristiina Halkola later sued Jörn Donner over using a body-double of her in the erotic scenes of the film. Another Kristiina, Hautala, memorably sings 'Kielletyt käskyt' ("Forbidden Commandments"), a now-classic song with lyrics penned by Jukka Virtanen.

    Kristiina Halkola and "Jörkka" sharing a tender moment before meeting in court.

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