Raja 1918 or Gränsen 1918 (The Border) (2007)
Director: Lauri Törhönen.
Starring: Martin Bahne (Carl von Munck), Minna Haapkylä (Maaria Eleonoora Lintu), Tommi Korpela (Heikki Kiljunen), Leonid Mozgovoy (Majuri Gentsch), Hannu-Pekka Björkman (Vääpeli Muranen), Lauri Nurkse (Luutnantti Suutari), Risto Kaskilahti (Alex Muranen), Orvo Björninen (Tohtori Jevgeni Perret), Pauli Poranen (Edvin Lintu), Roman Schatz (Majuri Berner), Hannu Kahakorpi (Kenraali Jyrinkoski), Marjaana Maijala (Rouva Perret), Hannu Kivioja (Telegrafisti), Jevgeni Haukka (Komissaari), Stefan Möller (Reportteri).
commanding the Finnish border with Russia following the end of the Finnish War of Independence turns out to be a very hard task to perform
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
"World War I is ravaging Europe. When the Russian Empire falls, Finland declares independence on December 6th, 1917. In January 1918 the Reds begin to rebel against the government. The mutiny turns into a civil war, Whites against Red, brother against brother. The leader of the Whites is Mannerheim, a former Czar's general. Germany supports the Whites in the war."
The Whites fight against the Reds, who at trying to take over a village. The White officer has the Red captives lined up and he says to them: "In the name of the fatherland, I sentence you do death." The Whites start shooting the Reds down, but not with a firing squad. They shoot haphazardly at the men, giving the men still not hit a chance to run for it. They take that chance and run for it. The Red escapees are shot down one by one.
"The war claimed more than 35,000 victims. Most of them were Reds."
Raja. The border. 1918. A man named Carl jumps off a train and into the arm of his Maria. She tells him he must never go to war again. She was so frightened. He promises her he won't go again. She tells him that he will continue his university career and they will get married. He adds that they will have children.
Carl and Maria go to Maria's house where dinner is being prepared. German Major Berner tells Lt. Carl von Munck that the Finns never would have won without German assistance. The Lieutenant disagrees. A family member tells Carl to be careful because the Major is an intelligence officer. A messenger delivers a letter from Mannerheim to Captain von Munck.
Everyone now sits for dinner. Major Berner says: "Finland is now independent but not sovereign. Together we have made history, but Germany has dictated it." Another family member changes the topic of conversation by proposing a toast to the King of Finland.
At night Maria goes with her two dogs to Carl's room. She stays in bed with him until 11 pm. when she says her father waits for her. She gets up to get dressed. She sees the letter for Carl from Mannerheim. Carl says they are sending him to the new border of Soviet Russia. Maria doesn't like this one bit. Carl says he's not going to war. He's going to build a new border and keep the peace. He asks that she ask her father to postpone the wedding until autumn.
Carl travels on a train to the border. The trains stops and the ticket taker says that the railroad stops here because the line to St. Petersburg has been cut off. The ticket taker says the Captain will have to continue by horse.
May 5, 1918. Sergeant-Major Muranen greets the Captain as he gets off the train. The Sergeant-Major has a horse.
When they arrive at the border the Captain looks at the Russian guards who seem to be having a rather merry time of it. The Sergeant-Major explains that the creek here is the border, but they never really had a real border here. The men then go to the headquarters where the Captain meets Lt. Suutari, acting commandant. The Lieutenant hands over the unit to the Captain. The Captain is going to need a clerk who can take short-hand. The Lieutenant says he knows someone.
In school, there are still divisions between Reds and Whites. A boy tells two of his classmates: "You Reds'll wind up in Tammisaari and be shot like Ilmari's father." This starts a fight between one of the Reds and the White. The blonde teacher has to come over and stop the fight. The Lieutenant enters the classroom and tells Miss Lintu that they need her.
The teacher comes and meets the Captain and they don't get along from the start. She tells him that she will not serve him as a clerk because she needs to teach the children how to read and write.
The teacher goes home. Her name is Maaria. She greets her brother Edvin and her fiancé, who is trying to recover from wounds to his legs. She gives her fiancé a kiss and tells him that he needs to see a doctor. He says they're all Whites and informants. They need a plan to get him out of this place. They should go to Russia. Maaria doesn't like the idea. She says they offered her work for the summer as the clerk for the new commandant. She adds that she turned the job down. Her lover tells her she must take the job.
The next morning Maaria asks the Captain if his offer of a job still stands. He asks her if she changed her mind? She says she'll take the job for the summer. The Captain welcomes her to the Finnish White Army. Being a bit of a Red, Maaria just ignores that remark.
Maaria begins her job. She says she's an idealist and against borders. The Captain says he's for Finland. So, they decide they are all idealists, and toast to it.
The fiancé talks about going up to Helsinki where there is still one Red doctor available. Maaria says: "Helsinki has surrendered to the Germans. You'll get killed there." Nevertheless, she says she will get them the necessary travel passes.
The Captain tries to shape up his men manning the borders. He gets them together and tells them that the actions on the border have been absolutely miserable. From now on everyone crossing the bridge will be asked for their travel documents. The Sergeant-Major speaks up to say the the locals don't have any papers. The Captain says then the people will have to get papers. Dismissed.
A little later the Sergeant-Major suggests to the Captain that they proceed gradually with the new tightened border. People without papers have been crossing over the bridge here for 600 years. The Captain says it's the Germans in Finland who want these restrictions at the border.
The Lieutenant comes into Headquarters and thinks that Miss Lintu has put some papers from the office under her blouse. He tries to get them from her physically and she fights him off. The Captain comes in and asks what's going on? The Lieutenant explains, but the Captain sides with his clerk. The Lieutenant leaves the room.
A Russian woman tries to cross the border without papers. The Finnish guards grab her and send her back to the Soviet guards. People in the area start walking across the waters of the river to go back and forth between Russia and Finland.
Soviet Comrade Major Gentsch comes to see the Finnish Captain, but he just waves at the Captain. Von Munck salutes him. The Major turns round and leaves the border.
Now the Captain issues a rough order. "Illegal border crossers will be shot without question." The Sergeant-Major tells the Captain that they just don't have enough men to stop all the illegal border crossers. The Captain says it will have to work.
The Captain speaks with Miss Lintu and asks if she ever has self-doubts and feelings of meaninglessness? She says yes. He says he is engaged for the third time, but the truth is he feels he doesn't really know how to love. His Maria did not approve of his coming to the border. Maaria starts to leave. The Captain comments: "Heikki Kilojunn, the commander of the Reds. There's a warrant for the arrest of a man by that name." That stops Maaria right in her tracks. The man is suspected of murder, robbery and treason. It's said the man personally shot civilians, including women, he suspected of collaborating with the Whites. "He's to be shot on sight." It looks like Maaria wants to say something, but thinks better of it and leaves.
Maaria asks her brother to be careful with Heikki, she doesn't want to lose either of them. Edvin says if he takes Heikki, they both will be killed. Maaria asks what is she to do with Heikki then if he is to be shot on sight? Someone is bound to discover his presence. Edvin says his sister is Heikki's fiancé, so she must think of something.
Maaria goes outside to get two pails of water. When she comes back in, she doesn't see her fiancé in the bed. She goes into the living room and is grabbed from behind by her fiancé, who puts her in a chokehold. He says that Edvin took his travel pass and left him behind at the mercy of those butchers. He says she's a traitor and has set a trap for him. She answers that he is so weak: "I could kill you as easily as you killed those women and old men." He says the whites are lying to her.
Maaria runs down to the river looking upset. The captain with his binoculars sees her and goes to check on her. He asks her what's wrong and she says it's nothing she can talk about. She adds: "And I'm not even real myself." She walks quickly back to her place.
Lots of people are streaming into Finland from Russia over the bridge. The Sergeant-Major tells the Captain to come quick. The soldiers are holding the wave back. It's said that Russian nobles and bourgeoisie are being executed in Russia. The Captain says they can't let the people come into Finland. He shouts out: "This is the Finnish border. Russians are not welcome." Only Finns and other nationalities. He tells an aide to telegraph for instructions. His instructions come back saying to keep the border closed. Furthermore: "Deport all Russians and Jews due to infectious diseases." Spies and Reds are to be executed.
The Sergeant-Major asks if the refugees don't have papers, how are they going to know who is Finnish and who is not? So they decide to ask the refugees to say a hard word in Finnish. Those who can't do it are deemed not-Finnish. A couple is separated because the man could say "yes" in Finnish, but the woman couldn't. Maaria sees this and is furious. She goes to the Captain to complain. So the Captain tells the Sergeant-Major that they will now interview the refugees individually. Miss Lintu will keep a record of the interviews.
Dr. Yevgenhy Perret rushes across the bridge in his car, actually knocking a soldier over. He's Russian but speaks Finnish. His wife is Finnish, from Helsinki. He is requesting asylum in Finland. The Captain says the doctor is a Russian and Russians are to be deported. The doctor says he can give the Captain a lot of great inside information about the Russians. If they send him back to Russia, they will kill him. The Captain will put the doctor in quarantine for now.
A local man who knows the captain, says that he has created a system here that aids the Reds who've fled to Russia to get into Finland by saying "yes". Frankly, the man says: "You are importing spies to Finland." The Lieutenant is told to take over a barn or similar structure and they will place the under suspect people inside, until they know what to do with them. The Lieutenant objects that they are supposed to shoot Reds. The Captain says if the Lieutenant knows someone's a red, then shoot him. Shoot the wrong person and the Lieutenant will be shot. Lieutenant Suutari says: "I'll take that risk."
The border patrol has to work day and night dealing with all the refugees and others wanting to come into Finland. The Captain rejects a family for being Jewish.
The situation is getting out of control with such vast numbers of refugees. Von Munck goes to see his Russian counterpart. The Captain even plays chess with the Major. And that solves the problem, because the Russians now close the border to refugees.
The Finnish border patrol fires on people trying to cross over the river by means other than the bridge. The Captain gives his men target practice, because they can't seem to hit anyone. (They could, but they just don't want to kill anyone who might be innocent or Finnish.)
Miss Lintu asks if the Russian doctor might be let out of quarantine to check out her very sick aunt. The captain grants permission. A Finnish soldier goes with her.
The doctor tells Miss Lintu that this man needs the medicine quinine, but he has none. Lintu says she will get some. The doctor says the patient needs the medicine here quickly.
The Russian Major is sure that the Captain has the saboteur, Dr. Perret, quarantined. The Captain says Perret is under the protection of Finland. They continue playing chess. The Major says that half of the smuggled goods could become the Captain's private property.
The man who has been supplying the tea for the Captain is caught by the Finnish border patrol. The Captain says that he thought the smuggler was a businessman with connections in Russia. Yes, but not legal business connections. The Captain throws him in the quarantine jail. The Sergeant-Major knows and likes the smuggler because the man is his brother. The Captain tells him that this is his second warning about staying away from the smuggler. If he catches him again, the Sergeant-Major will be going to Helsinki in chains.
Miss Lintu comes to the Captain and says her aunt needs quinine, painkiller and disinfectant. He gets the medicines for her. The doctor says the "aunt" is recovering quickly in response to the medicines. Auntie could be fully recovered fairly quickly.
The doctor asks if the man is Miss Lintu's husband? No. Is she a Red? No, she is not. She cares for all people. The doctor asks her what is she planning on doing? She answers: "I don't know."
The Sergeant-Major says that the quarantine area is overflowing with people. Disease is becoming rampant. The Lieutenant tells the Captain that if they can shoot the Reds and the Russians that will make room for others. The Sergeant-Major, who is actually the brother to the recently arrested smuggler, tells the Captain that his brother can gather information on what the Bolsheviks are doing behind their lines. The Captain frees the brother.
The Captain goes over to see Miss Lintu. She is outside by the pond in her negligee. She asks if he needs her? He says yes. He slowly leans forward and kisses her. She responds very readily and starts kissing him too. Then she pushes him away from her and runs into her house.
Her boyfriend seems to be all well now. He has carved her a bird figurine to put around her neck. They kiss. He is grateful to her for saving his life and he knows he was a difficult patient. But now everything will be good again.
Edvin Lintu is caught by the border patrol. Miss Lintu is shocked when he is brought into the headquarters office. And he has been traveling with a forged travel pass signed by the Captain. The Captain says send him to Tammisaari prison camp. The Lieutenant, of course, wants to just shoot the man. The Captain says not without a trial. They take the brother out. Miss Lintu leaves the office. The Sergeant-Major informs the Captain that the man arrested is Miss Lintu's brother.
The Lieutenant shoots the brother, despite the Captain's wishes. Miss Lintu screams out for her brother. The Lieutenant says the man tried to escape, but the Sergeant-Major says the lieutenant shot the man on purpose.
At night the Captain comes to see Miss Lintu, but she just starts singing the communist Internationale. He leaves.
The Captain tries to convince Miss Lintu that some greater good can come out of tragedies. He asks her to try to understand. She is not in the mood. He gets nowhere with her.
Now the Captain becomes a bit hard-hearted and has no mercy for anyone. Miss Lintu just stays far away from him, only making him more frustrated and madder.
The Captain plays chess with the Major again. The Major tells him he looks like a man in love. He adds that women are trouble. He says he had a wife but she died. He killed her for fooling around on him.
The Captain comes into the home of the Sergeant-Major and says his brother has been spying for the Russians. He says he has issued an order to shoot the man on sight. He then leaves.
Miss Lintu gets an answer from her fiancé that he has killed women. He says that's the way it is in a civil war. She is not happy about that. He asks her to go to St. Petersburg with him. They can become Russians.
The Captain knocks on Miss Lintu's door. She tells her fiancé to hide. She then tells the Captain to go away. They struggle a little and then her fiancé clobbers the Captain over the head with a piece of fire wood. The Captain pulls out his revolver to shoot the fleeing man and fires the weapon but the shot goes up into the ceiling because Miss Lintu deflects his hand. Now to calm him, she starts kissing him.
The Sergeant-Major tells his brother to go, but don't ever come back or they will shoot him. The brother pushes off, but two border patrol soldiers arrive and one of them shoots the brother while he stands up in the boat.
Miss Lintu is now arrested on suspicion of treason. He questions her and then condemns her to be executed at dawn.
The Lieutenant starts taking her to the quarantine area. She asks him to let her go. He says no. She acts sexy with him and then kicks him in the groin. He goes down and she grabs his pistol from him. She runs down to the pond and throws the pistol in the water. She then jumps in and starts swimming to the other side of the pond. The Lieutenant jumps in the pond, but he is a pitiful swimmer.
A new flag for Finland arrives. It's a dark-blue cross laying horizontally across a white background.
A General arrives at the border post. He says his name is Jyrinkoski. With him is Major Berner from Germany. The Captain says he and the Major have met before. The General says that Helsinki is very pleased with Captain von Munck. "You've created a border for our nation."
The General tours the quarantine area. He picks out quite a few men. The men stand before a wall. Those who can't says "yes" in Finnish are shot dead. The General says that will make more room in the quarantine area.
The General and the Major talk about Germany and Finland capturing Petersburg in Russia. Then the Captain can draw a new border for Finland again. They want to move the Finnish border a little eastward and liberate their Karelian kinsmen.
Captain von Munck is now promoted to the rank of Major. He is also awarded a Cross of Liberty 3rd Class.
Mrs. Perret arrives from Helsinki. She tells the Major that she has arranged a work and a residence permit for her husband. He tells her that he's sorry, but she first has to get a release order to get her husband.
A story in the newspaper says that Germany's western front has collapsed. The Major gives a little chuckle saying it looks like the Germans will be leaving Finland as well.
From the Russian Major, von Munck learns that Miss Lintu lives. She is a guest of Mother Russia. She came with a friend, Heikki Kiljunen. He also says that the two of them want to attack Major von Munck's concentration camp. He goes on to say that he does not know if the raid will take place on Thursday at midnight, using the railway bridge. The Russian Major says: "Remember this: our friendship is above what governments do. Remember that if something happens." They toast to it.
An ambush is set up at the railway bridge. A few of the raiders are shot. The rest surrender. Heikki and Miss Lintu are among the captured.
The Major goes into the quarantined area and picks out six men, including the doctor and Heikki. The first first men are shot dead. The Major decides to save Heikki. Heikki will bury the men.
The Russian Major comes to the Finnish Major asking for asylum. He says the Russians got tired of his governing style. Von Munck says he will do what he can to help the Russian.
Mrs. Perret comes with the release papers. Von Munck acts as if nothing is wrong. He looks over the papers. He even takes one of her pastries she has brought for everyone in the office. Von Munck now tells the Lieutenant to take Mrs. Perret to her husband.
The Lieutenant does what he is told. Heikki has finished digging the mass grave and one can still view Dr. Perret's corpse. The Lieutenant motions her over to the grave pit. There she sees her husband. Naturally, she is devastated.
Helsinki informs Von Munck that the Russian Major will be sent back to Soviet Russia. He is to be traded for a Finnish soldier. The Russian takes the news rather well.
Von Munck turns the Russian Major over to the Russians and, in return, he gets four Finnish men. The Russian Major is shot in the back of the head as he kneels on the Russian side of the bridge.
When he sees Miss Lintu near the graves of the recent dead, the Major comes over to her to ask her did she ever love him? She says she did. He tells her but not enough. He goes on to say that she betrayed him. She goes down on her knees and says then shoot me. He only says that he loves her. She says then let her live. With him? No. Give her, her freedom.
At night the Lieutenant sees the Major take Miss Lintu's execution order out of the files and put it in his pocket. The Lieutenant says he could be court-martialed for that and the Major tells the Lieutenant to go ahead and turn him in.
In the quarantine barracks Miss Lintu starts a fire. She has all the women scream "fire". When the Major and the others get to the barracks, the women all come out naked with a dressed Heikki. The Lieutenant shoots one of the women and then the whole barracks rushrs at the soldiers. Many of the women get past the soldiers. Others are shot down with some of the men. The border patrolmen follow the escapees and start shooting them down. And now they are being shot down from both directions when reaching the stream. Even those who have their hands up are shot down.
And yet still the Major begs Maaria to stay. The Lieutenant, however, shoots her in the chest with his pistol. That's the end of Maaria.
Heikki makes it across the stream. There he finds the dead body of the Sergeant-Major's brother, killed a little earlier in the night. He takes his passport and his money.
The Major gets on a train. He starts tearing his medal off and his Major's rank insignia. Without his shirt on he climbs down the steps of the train car and onto the platform where he immediately falls down. A newspaper boy comes by shouting that the Word War has ended! Women from the station pick up von Munck and take him inside the station house.
1928. Professor von Munck comes to some type of celebration. He is dressed in a tuxedo. There von Munck is introduced to a distinguished businessman, Heikki, still using the name of the Sergeant-Major's dead brother. Professor Baron Carl von Munck says that they have already met.
Good movie. Fascinating story a a patriotic Finnish military officer who tries his best to build a new, effective border for Finland on the Russian border. He does a good job, but his is hampered by falling in love with a Miss Lintu. The woman has divided loyalties because her brother and her fiancé are both Reds, while the Finnish government is White. The Finnish officer is torn apart inside because his loyalty to his duty and his country and his love for Miss Lintu. This causes him never ending problems in his job. Miss Lintu, is also torn apart by divided emotions. She has a love for the Finnish officer but a loyalty to her Red brother and fiancé. It makes a very interesting movie. Martin Bahne (as Finnish officer Carl von Munck) and Minna Haapkylä (as Maaria Eleonoora Lintu) both to a good job of acting.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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