Framom främsta linjen (Beyond Enemy Lines) (2004)

 

 

 

 

Director:     Åke Lindman.

Starring:     Tobias Zilliacus (Harry Järv), Ilkka Heiskanen (Lt.Col. Alpo Marttinen), Christoffer Westerlund (Allan Finholm), Kim Gustafsson (Björk), Martin Bahne (Lindblad), Carl-Gustaf Wentzel (Forss), Jan-Christian Söderholm (Klas Helèn), Sampo Sarkola (Kaustinen), Johan Rönneholm (Händig), Joachim Thibblin (Bertel Söderman), Oskar Silén (Lt. Mattas), Paavo Kerosuo, Patrick Henriksen (Rosenlöf), Peter Kanerva (Olof Fagerström), Jan Korander (Löfman).

Swedish speaking Finns' infantry regiment 61 fights throughout the Continuation War

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

A commander walks with his Finnish troops behind him dressed all in white for winter.  Second Lieutenant Harry Järv says his strike group is ready.  The commander says the Soviets' base (called "the Bird"") must be destroyed.  And he wants the second lieutenant to bring him back a live Russian soldier.  The strike group heads out. 

As the strike group nears the base, the men dig a little trench so they won't be seen above ground.  A Russian guard hears something sounding like a click.  He shoots a flare into the air.  The Finnish soldiers stay dead still. 

December 6, 2003.  Harry Järv's home in Stockholm.  He welcomes to his home Jeanette Eriksson and another soldier Orvar Nilsson.  Harry has eight or so medals on his chest and one around his neck and Orvar Nilsson also has quite a few medals.  Harry explains to Jeanette that the two veterans of war are off to the Finnish embassy.  It's Independence Day for them.  He explains that Orvar helped them in the Winter War and the Continuation War.  (One war, followed by a peace pause, and then another war with the Soviet Union.)   

The three sit down and look over an old Soviet military map.  Harry explains that in the summer orf 1941 the Finnish troops took back the Karelian peninsula.  Orvar shows Jeanette how the Syväri River flows out of Lake Onega on the east westward to Lake Ladoga.  He points out to Jeanette that there were two Swedish speaking regiments involved in the wars.  Harry says he came to the base (called "the Dam") in early June 1942.   He did reconnaissance missions to try and figure out what were the intentions of the Soviets.

Flashback.  "The Dam", Syväri River, June 1942.  Finnish troops are having a hard time digging.  So Harry presents Forss with a little bomb to blow some of the dirt and clay out of the way.  The explosion is pretty big.

Major Hedengren comes walking along.  He asks where the hell did they get the TNT for the bomb?  "We shouldn't waste our supplies!"  Harry says they got the TNT from the Soviets' mine fields.  The major says that's okay then.  He walks away. 

Harry says to a soldier that he will be taking a strike group and head over to a Soviet base known as "the Boil".  That base is almost next to the "Teeri" base.

"The Boil", July 4, 1942.  Harry says that the strike group will divide up into small groups.  The plan is to attack all the posts as the same time.  Artillery will give them one minute of bombardment.  When the bombardment ends the men jump up and go to the attack.  Machine gun nests are taken out with hand grenades.  It only takes a minute or so to wipe out the base.  Forss wonders where all the Russians are.  Suddenly, he starts running off to one side.  He finds them and yells:  "Russkies!"   The Russians get creamed because they are in the open attacking a fortified position and are, subsequently, mowed down.  The Finns head back to their base.

Harry reports that they destroyed nine of the ten bases.  On the last one, the Russians struck back.  Major Hedengren congratulates Harry on a job well done.  Back in the underground barracks a soldier, named Allan, suggests next time they do without the artillery support and sneak into the Russian bases to attack the Russkies so they can battle them on their own terms. 

One of the guys speaks of something that happened a year ago in September at Säämäjärvi.    A Lt. Col. in the Swedish army was wearing a Russian uniform.  The fellow was none other than Prince Gustaf Adolf, the grandson of Gustaf V of Sweden (reigned from 1907-1950 and the future King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden, reigning 1950-1973).

March 1942.  Headquarters, Mikkeli.  The prince bestows on Field Marshal Mannerheim a knighthood and a First Class Grand Cross.

Back at the barracks Harry and the men under him hear on the radio that one of their attack patrols destroyed almost ten enemy posts.  A soldier comments that Järv's patrol got on the news.

Finnish soldiers build a new underground barracks.  Harry is gone for two weeks of training.  When he gets back he finds that the unit's rifles have not been cleaned.   He calls for an inspection in ten minutes.  He also stresses that whatever they don't do, they must have clean weapons because the Russians can attack at any time. 

Harry's group goes out again and dominates the battle.  And they bring back a wounded Russian soldier.  Harry has now led 30 missions and all have been successful.  Lt. Colonel Marttinen, the division chief of staff, asks Harry how does he do it?  He says on this last mission they watched the Russian base for three days and nights before they struck. Martinnen says that soon he will be Harry's regiment commander.  Martinnen asks a translator to find out the name and unit of the prisoner. Their prisoner's name is Kungurchev and his unit is IR 1061. 

Headquarters of the Regiment Staff, 1942.  Lt. Col. Martinnen gets a report written in Swedish and he complains to the typist, Captain Taxell.  The fellow tells him that IR 61 is a Swedish-speaking unit.  Martinnen now asks Taxell to get him a Swedish language textbook, so he can improve his rusty Swedish. 

One of the men, Franzen, is shot in the mouth and killed by a sniper's bullet. 

Rev. Hogstrom pays the fellows a visit.  He is impressed by the good spirit of camaraderie in the unit.  He wishes them all good luck and hopes the Lord will protect them. 

December 1942.  Forss is leaving the unit.  He is going to officer's training.  The Lt. Col. comes and inspects the conditions at camp and is nicked in the head by the sniper. 

Martinnen tells Harry that they have not been able to destroy the base known as "Bird".  An attempt was made in March 1942, but it failed.  The attacking unit lost 19 men killed and dozens wounded.  Now the lt. col. wants Harry to lead an attack on the "Bird" base. 

Harry talks to his men.  He says they will leave at 18:30 hours.  Helen and Nordman will each lead a group.  Every man will have a submachine gun and three hand grenades.  Harry now takes a photograph of his unit. 

"The Bird", February 8 and 9, 1943.  The strike group has been in the vicinity of the enemy base for five hours now.  They have tried different paths but each time have run into a guard.  One soldier is send back because he has a frostbitten foot.  Harry takes Finholm, Fagerstrom and Frande with him.  The group gets into the enemy's trenches.  Suddenly a Russian soldier appears in front of Harry and he has to shoot him.  This alerts the Russians, but the sound also sets off a Finnish artillery barrage of the base.  

A Russian keeps popping out and in from a main door to a dug-out.  Harry gets next to the door and when the guy pops out again, he places a grenade inside the dug-out. The explosion kills the Russian.  Now the Russians charge the trenches.  It's a turkey shoot for the Finns, because the Russians are wearing dark coats against the white of the snow and the Finnish submachine guns starts knocking out all the enemy soldiers.  With the Russians all down in the snow, the guys set off a charge in the trenches to kill anyone hiding in the dug-out.  The strike group puts a wounded Russian soldier on a sled and pulls him along as they head back to home base. 

A Russian sniper climbs up a ladder to a platform in a tree.  He sees a Finnish soldier, named Ragnar, walking around the trenches and shoots and wounds him. 

July 2, 1943.  The sniper platform.  Sitting in the shade of the forest, Harry tells his men that he too is often afraid.  But fear must be controlled, he says.  He tells the men that all of them have the capability of controlling their fear, otherwise he never would have selected them for the strike group.  The Russians return to the site of the sniper platform and the Finns open fire.  They hit the sniper, who is in the lead, and he goes down.  Those Russians not killed or wounded run away from the fight.  They put the sniper on a stretcher and take a hand gun from him.  Harry looks through the man's papers and finds out that the sniper's name is Nikolai Smirnov.  Nikolai is taken to the first-aid tent, but the Russian dies before they actually enter the tent. 

The Russians start shelling the Finnish base.  The strike group returns to its dug-out barracks.  Ragnar tells Klas that there's something strange about what happened.  Four months ago, Smirnov shot Ragnar through the lungs.  "Now he's dead."     The Russians score a direct hit on the dug-out and Ragnar is killed.  The shell came right through a small opening at the top of the dug-out.

Harry takes a photo of a soldier inside the dug-out. 

Martinnen gets an order to increase the number of their patrols.  He tells Capt. Taxell to get lieutenants Harry and Mattas up here.  Taxell gets on the phone at once.  When Harry and Mattas arrive, the lieutenant colonel tells them that every company has to send one reconnaissance or strike patrol to the front line everyday.  He makes Harry the regiment's patrol leader.  Mattas will be his deputy.  Harry tells the lt. col. that so far he has only used volunteers on his patrols.  Martinnen says that Harry is free to find recruits in other companies of the unit. 

Harry and Mattas go to an out-door restaurant where they are waited upon by a pretty young lady.  There are smiles all around.  The two lieutenants speak of the fact that there will be many "casualties" with so many patrols. 

Back in the barracks, Harry gets a phone call from Capt. Taxell who says that the boss wants him to recon a Russian base close to second battalion.  And Martinnen wants a prisoner brought back.  After Harry hangs up the phone, he gets seven volunteers almost immediately.  He tells the guys that seven men plus him is enough. 

The next day the commander says that Harry and his men will go in first, followed by Major Tirronen's artillery fire.  Now Martinnen talks to the men.  They are to destroy the base "Sea".  Harry takes another photo of his group. 

July 17, 1943.  The men of the strike group crawl the last part of the way on their bellies.  When they see some Russian guards they pull out to go a different way.  They all sit down for a break and Harry says it's just too quiet here. Harry takes two men with him and they crawl forward.  Harry stands up, but is somewhat covered by a group of trees.  An officer comes over to the guard, who tells him that he just saw a man standing out there by the trees.  The officer can't see anyone, so he tells the guard there is no one there and he should just calm down.  The nervous guard now decides to shoot into the trees were he saw a man standing.  The three Finns have to duck down to avoid being hit.  Two other Russian soldiers come over, but they don't see anything.  They say the guard is seeing ghosts. 

Harry and his two soldiers go back and get the other guys.  Now they start jumping into the Russian trenches.  Harry goes in first.  Soderman sees a Russian soldier and yells to Harry to warn him.  He then jumps down but the Russian shoots Soderman before he lands on the trench floor.  Two Russians come out of a dug-out and Harry shoots them down.  Another Finnish soldier follows Harry but he is hit by shrapnel from a exploding shell.  Harry continues running through the trenches.  He shoots down five Russians grouped closely together.  He blows up a machine-gun with a grenade.

Two other Finnish soldiers pull the wounded buddy out of the trenches.   Then a Russian throws out two grenades from his dug-out.  This wounds one man slightly and another much worse.  A half-dozen Russians rush the Finns, but the sub-machine guns mow them down.  Harry is a bit shook up because this is the first soldier under his command who has been killed.  He adds that Soderman sacrificed his life to save him.  Martinnen responds:  "The law of war is hard."'

Back in the barracks dug-out, Harry packs up Soderman's things.  Harry starts to cry. 

Vasa.  July 29, 1943.  Soderman is buried with military honors.  The deceased's schoolmaster asks Harry what will he do when the war is over?  Harry says he doesn't know.  He does, however, want to finish his university degree. 

September 9, 1943.  Martinnen shakes the hands of six soldiers ready to go out on patrol   Harry will lead the patrol.  Behind the patrol come other soldiers for support.  They come to an area that is mined.  Harry disarms the mechanisms of the mines he finds.  A little later Harry tells his patrol that they want to capture just one Russian soldier.  There is to be no gunfire.  Five high-ranking Russian officers come galloping on horses down the road.  Harry tells his men to let them pass.  The men take a short break.  Harry tells the guys they will go back to base and return tomorrow.  On the way back Harry trips a mine off and he is wounded.  One of the other soldiers moves around the area and he sets off another mine.  He is wounded. 

Harry clears the immediate area of mines and puts a tourniquet around his left leg.  His left foot looks very bloody.  Harry tells his men to leave him behind and go back to base.  The men go a shorts ways back and then turn around to go back and get Harry.  Harry as narrator says as he sat there he thought about all the books he would never read and all the pretty girls he would never see.  He also thought it unjust for a 22 year old to go out like this.  He scolds the men for coming back for him, but he is real quick to offer up his arms so he can be helped up to get out of there.  One of the support troops trips off another mine, but he can walk on his own.  The Russians come closer and Lindblad gets a flesh wound.  Now there are four wounded.  

The patrol reaches Martinnen and the medics.  Harry has to have an immediate transfusion of blood.  Harry survives.  He is taken back to base camp in the back of a truck along with the other wounded men. 

Narrator Harry says that the wound didn't heal and he had to have many operations on his foot.  St. Goran's Hospital, May 1944.  After nine months Martinnen writes a letter to Harry.  The letter says that Harry is a very courageous soldier and now his work is done.  It goes on to say that Martinnen is very proud of Harry and what he did for Finland.  He ends by asking Harry to write to him. 

Harry's nurse tells him that soon he will get a prosthetic leg and will be walking around in no time.  He will be transferred to Salsta Castle, Sweden where Baroness Wera von Essen has set up a convalescence home for soldiers.  Harry takes a photo of his nurse.

June 7, 1944, Stockholm, Reconnaissance Division.  A Swede calls engineering Lt. Nils-Erik Stenback to warn the Finns on the front lines that the Russians have 24 divisions ready for an attack.   

The noise of heavy shelling is heard miles away by those farther away from the fighting. 

Back to the present.   Orvar Nilsson tells Jeanette that the city of Vyborg suddenly fell on June 20, 1944.  This puts Helsinki in danger. "If the Russkies had crossed the strait, they would've gotten to Helsinki."  But the Russians decide to take some time out to celebrate their victory in Vyborg.  Harry says:  "IR 61 was ordered to assume command of Tienhaara."  (Tienhara is a settlement on the Karelian Isthmus, near Vyborg.)

Flashback.  Martinnen puts his men on trains to move them to key blocking positions. 

Salsta Castle, Sweden, June 10, 1944.  Over the radio Harry learns that the Russians have launched a major offensive in Karelia.  The enemy has broken through the Finnish defenses, forcing the Finnish forces to fall back.  In Normandy, the Allies have strengthened their hold on the area.  Harry tells the baroness that he wants to go back to the front to fight. 

June 22, 1944, Karelian peninsula.  Martinnen talks to Major Eino Penttilä, who tells him that his men have been fighting the Russians for two weeks defending Kivisillansalmi.  Martinnen says his IR 61 will relieve the major's forces at 15:00 hours..

Martinnen gives his officers their instructions.  Major Homberg and his 1st Battalion will command on the left from Rapattila to Kivisilta.   Battalion 27 will be on their left.  Another major will place the 3rd Battalion on the right side of Major Homberg's forces.  And on their right side will be the Estonian volunteers of IR 200.  Capt. Renvall and his 2nd Battalion will be kept in reserve. 

The new forces march into the area, while the old forces march out.  The new forces have to dig fox holes as soon as they get into position.  The watch phrase is:  "Sweat spares blood."  The Finns try to stop the Russians from crossing a small bridge over a bridge. 

Marttinen now speaks to his new artillery commander, Major Heikki Huttunen.  The major tells him that they will have 70 artillery guns ready to assist his troops.  Martinnen is very grateful for that. 

News comes in for Martinnen of 5 killed and 58 wounded. The men get a little break from the fighting. 

Harry tosses and turns in his bed worrying about how he should be fighting at the front with his comrades.

June 23, 1944.  The Russians again try to cross over the bridge.  A Finnish medic gets up on a rock to yell out the question asking if there is anyone who is in need of medical attention?  The soldiers tell the medic to get down from that rock, but the medic is hit in the right arm before he can get down.  The Finns hold their position. 

The Russians try again.  They get some reinforcements, who try to cross the river in boats.  The Russians are attacking from Linnasaari and Sorvali with two battalions.  The Finnish artillery opens up on the reinforcements.  By now the bridge is totally destroyed.  A direct hit from the Finnish artillery destroys two of the boats trying to cross the river.  Once again the Finns maintain their position. 

Finnish headquarters, Mikkeli.  The question for the field marshal is can Tienhaara hold? 

3rd Battalion informs Martinnen that the Russians have broken through at Kivisilta.  The lt. colonel sends a message to Major Holmberg.  Holmberg's orders are to stop the breakthrough.  They are to counterattack and use the assault guns. Lofman will hit back with the 11th Company.  Two Finnish tanks and the 11th Company arrive at the bridge.  The tanks immediately start firing across the river.  Another Russian attack is beat back.  The Finns move forward.  Two boatloads of Russians try to cross back over the river.  Forss rushes forward and strafes the two boats with his sub-machine gun.  A little later Forss gets hit by shrapnel in the head.  He survives.

The field marshal calls Martinnen and asks him if the situation is under control?  Martinnen says:  "Tienhaara will hold, sir."  The field marshal thanks Martinnen and his troops for saving Finland, at least for now.   

The Russkies have had enough, for now.  Martinnen says he has lost hundreds of men. Five company commanders have died in battle.  Only 38 men are left in 11th Company.  "War is hard."  He goes on to say that he feels that the battle was won because of the Finnish artillery. 

At the bridge the men are still being shelled by artillery fire.  Martinnen comes out to talk to the men.  He says he is very proud of the men.  Field Marshal Mannerheim personally asked Martinnen to thank the men of IR 61. 

Martinnen tells the commander of the men that they must maintain their positions until there is peace. 

Back to the present.  Narrator Harry says that IR 61 lost 820 men.  "But the Finnish lock and the road to Helsinki remained closed."  He continues:  "A few weeks after that Finland's independence was at stake everyday." 

"After Tienhaara, the Red Army tried to win the war at Tali-Ihantala.  The largest battle of the Nordic countries was fought there." 

 

This film concentrates greatly on the heroic leadership of Second Lieutenant Harry Järv who documented quite a bit of his war experience with lots of photos.  You get to see the older and real Harry Järv, now with lots of white hair. He is used as the narrator several times in the film.  There are lots of short battle scenes of raids on small Russian bases and later lots of scenes from a prolonged battle at Tienhaara.  As in most of these Finnish war movies, there are too many characters.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed the film. Tobias Zilliacus (as Harry Järv) did a great job.  The director of this film did another movie called Tali-Ihantala 1944 (2007), which deals with the battle at Tali-Ihantala. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 

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