There are different ways you can get to know a country and its culture, but watching some of its movies is one of the most effective. Brit flicks and Bollywood are two examples of film genres that perfectly encapsulate characteristics of the nations that created them, and the same applies to many other countries.
Venture to northern Europe and Finland is no different. The nation has a thriving independent movie scene. Here, we introduce some Finnish movies, both old and new, that are well worth seeking out.
The Unknown Soldier
Released in 1955, a decade after the events it describes, this is arguably the most important movie in Finland’s history. It tells the story of the Continuation War, which raged between Finland and the Soviet Union while the rest of Europe was in the midst of World War II. To this day, this movie is broadcast on Finnish network TV every Independence Day. The movie is based on the novel of the same title by Väinö Linna, which is essential reading for anyone with an interest in European history.
Here’s a tongue-in-cheek comedy thriller that might be only 65 minutes long, but makes every one of them count. In recent years, Scandinavia has become something of a European hub for casino gaming via Finland’s online games sites. This film is on the same topic and tells the story of an exclusive gourmet club whose members place bets on who can identify the mystery ingredient in each course. One member of the group can’t afford to lose, so he takes drastic action, adding a mystery ingredient that has unexpected consequences.
The White Reindeer
It is unusual for Finnish movies to gain much recognition outside Finland, but this 1952 horror movie was recognized at the Cannes Film Festival in 1953 and was awarded a Golden Globe in 1957. Set in the wilds of Lapland, it draws heavily on the nation’s mythology. As well as a genuinely disturbing story, the movie features lavish costumes and provides a breathtaking glimpse of Northern Finland’s unique landscape.
Inspector Palmu’s Error
This 1960 production from director Matti Kassila is consistently voted the best Finnish film ever – even 50 years after its release. The story is a standard murder mystery, but the twists and turns are of Agatha Christie’s quality. The cinematography is also top-notch, and there are some wonderful shots of old Helsinki. The movie was so popular that it went on to spawn three sequels featuring further tales from Inspector Palmu’s casebook.
The Man Without a Past
Another exception that proves the rule, Aki Kaurismäki’s 2002 study of contemporary life in Helsinki was nominated for five different awards at Cannes. It tells the story of a Finnish everyman who is the victim of a random attack in a park. When he regains consciousness, he has no memory of who he is, and is faced with the challenge of building a new life and identity. It’s darkly comedic, cynical and an absolute delight.