Käsky (Tears of April) (2008)
Director: Aku Louhimies.
Starring: Samuli Vauramo (Aaro Harjula), Pihla Viitala (Miina Malin), Eero Aho (Emil Hallenberg), Eemeli Louhimies (Eino), Miina Maasola (Martta), Riina Maidre (Beata Hallenberg), Sulevi Peltola (Konsta), Oskar Pöysti (Paasonen), Mikko Kouki (Vääpeli), Janne Virtanen (Jääkäriluutnantti), Robert Hedengren (Valkokaartilainen), Viktor Idman (Valkokaartilainen), Miska Kaukonen (Valkokaartilainen), Ilkka Heiskanen (Frans Rapola), Riitta Salminen (Saara Rapola).
a White officer in the Finnish Civil War against the Reds repeatedly tries to save a female Red soldier who he loves
(in Finnish with English and Swedish subtitles)
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film. Curse words and sexual imagery.
A blonde woman named Miina cuts her hair short, dresses like a Red Guard and holding a rifle has her photo taken at a photo shop.
"Finnish Civil War, end of April 1918. The victorious Whites hunt down the remaining Red Guards. 2,000 female soldiers fought amongst the Red ranks."
A unit of female Red Guards is on the move. All of a sudden they are being fired at by a group of Whites. A number of the women are hit. They are soon surrounded and captured.
A young boy named Eino walks with a shovel over his shoulder behind a man who is his temporary caretaker. He asks about his mother, but the man doesn't say anything. They reach the river. The man has been drinking and he, with harsh words, tells the boy to dig, while he sits on the river bank and cries.
The women POWs are held in the basement. One of the women is the mother of the young boy. She looks at a photograph she has of the boy. The woman tells Miina: "If I don't make it, you'll look after him. Promise me." Miina promises she will. The women are dragged up to the first floor and maltreated. One fellow spits on his hand and rubs it into Miina's face. A soldier rapes her. (Brief nudity.) After the first fellow is finished he calls for three other men who also rape her.
The next day the women are marched outdoors. The sergeant major wants to shoot them, but another man, Lt. Harjula, says that this is unlawful. They must be court-martialed first. The sgt. major tells the "Red whores" to run for home. As the women start running, the sgt. major yells that they are escaping and that he men should open fire. Miina and the mother of the small boy run together arm in arm. The mother is hit with a fatal wound. As she falls, so does Miina who is holding onto her.
After all the women are killed, the sgt. major says the men will go have some drink. He tells Harjula to secure the area. Harjula looks at the dead bodies. He kneels down with his back to Miina and she hits him on the head with her fist and then runs for her life. Harjula pursues her without his rifle. Miina pushes through the reeds and grasses of the marsh. Harjula jumps onto her and they struggle. The fellow pins her hands to the ground and tells Miina: "Take it easy now!"
Harjula brings Miina back alive with him. The sgt. major is extremely mad at Harjula. He's mad because, with Miina as an example of the atrocity they committed, it reminds the men of their evil deed and, thereby, spoils their celebration. He adds that all escaping prisoners must be shot. Harjula says he is going to take his prisoner to be court-martialed. The sgt. major tells him to take the Russian whore and get out here. Harjula takes her down to the water and they get into a row boat.
Harjula tells Miina that his first name is Aaro. He asks for his prisoner's name, but she stays silent. Aaro tells her that they thought at first that the women were Russian women. When he looks around to see how far he has to go, she thinks of grabbing his weapon. He starts telling her stories from his life until Miina tells him: "You row like shit."
Harjula tells Miina that her judge, Judge Hallenberg, is a good man. Miina stands up in the boat and Harjula tells her no standing in the boat. Miina grabs the rifle and hits Harjula in the head with the rifle butt. Harjula holds onto the rifle and a shot goes off that puts a hole in the floor of the row boat. Continuing to struggle with each other, they both fall into the water. Miina can swim, but Harjula is having a terrible time. Miinna swims over to the shore. She makes it, but has to catch her breath in order to make it all the way. As she lays there, Harjula walks out of the water and over to her.
They take refuge in a small shack. Miina is shivering and coughing. Aaron feels her forehead to see if she has a fever. He then goes out and chops firewood. He makes a beacon fire at the top of a rock summit. At one point in the night Miina gets up and grabs his axe. But she doesn't hit him.
The next morning they are able to spear a fish, cook it and eat it. Harjula again asks her name. She responds: "If you got a good fuck, would you forget about the court-martial?" She spreads her legs open for him. Harjula just walks away from her.
Back in the shack, Harjula takes some of his clothes off so he can go to sleep faster. Miina follows suit. Miinna must have taken a bit too much clothing off because the next scene shows Harjula masturbating over by the rock near the water.
At night they eat another fish. Harjula tells Miina that the raping of the women prisoners of war was just wrong.
Gradually they come together. Harjula gets up really close to her and they kiss passionately.
The next day Hajula sees a sail boat. He runs into the shack and tells Miina to get completely dressed. He then ties her hands together in front of her. They walk to a huge, fancy farm house. Aaron says to the man in charge: "Sir, Jaeger Harjula reporting for court-martial." He says it took them a week to get here because large waves overturned their row boat. The commander tells Hajula that they are taking the last prisoners to Tammisaari. ((Ekenäs (Swedish; Finnish: Tammisaari) is a former town and municipality of coastal southern Finland. As of 2009, it is a part of the new municipality Raseborg.))
Miina is thrown into a room by herself. From a slit in the wooden wall she sees Harjula with the commander. The commander tells Paasonen to take care of Jaeger Harjula, who, the commander says, is a hero.
The commander gets formally dressed up and walks and talks with an eating Harjula. He says that this place was once a mental sanatorium. The guy in charge, Dr. Carplean, was a reformist, who wanted to treat patients in accordance with the views of Leo Tolstoy of Russia. After dinner, the men have cigars and cognac. Harjula says the judge is said to be a very fair man. But the judge's reply is: "They're scum, with blood on their hands. Do they deserve mercy?" He goes out of the room for several seconds and comes back with a pistol in his hand telling Harjula not to worry. Justice will be done. He goes on to talk about his firing squad and "killing without remorse".
In the morning a firing squad shoots six reds. The judge finishes off the man who is not dead. He then has his picture taken while behind him bodies are being carried off the field of execution.
Miina comes before the judge. She answers none of the questions and the judge sends her back to her cell. The photographer takes a photo of Harjula while he is sitting on his bed putting on his boots. Then the photographer shows Harjula a photo, which turns out to be Dr. Carpelean, who killed himself. The judge comes in and says that the photographer, Konsta, was the only patient who survived. "The others died of thirst."
Miinna looks at the photo of the little boy who she is supposed to care for, that is, if she survives. Hallenberg makes a telephone call to the West Uusimaa headquarters. Afterwards, he goes to Miina's room. She still refuses to answer any questions. Hallenberg gets angry and, in a rage, starts knocking and slapping around the young woman prisoner.
Jarula sees Hallenberg come out of the building where Miina is being held prisoner. He wonders what the judge was doing there. The two men have dinner together again. The judge says the name of their prisoner is Miina Malin. Hallenberg also knows that Jarula saved the one survivor of the escaping women prisoners. Now he adds: "Do I have to arrest you for assisting the Reds?" He tells Jarula to get drunk with him. The judge starts singing patriotic songs again. When he stops he asks Jarula if he is a bachelor? He feels that Jarula is a bachelor. Jarula says nothing and leaves the room.
Jarula in his room thinks about Miina. Hallenberg bangs hard on the piano.
In the morning Jarula goes to see Miina. She asks him for a cigarette. Hallenberg looks through a peep hole, while Jarula tells her to tell them what she did, but don't tell them she fought. In addition, tell them that she didn't use a rifle. "And say nothing about us." He starts to leave, but she stops him in order to give him the photo of the boy Eino. She says he is in Tammistonkyla at the house of Rapola. She asks Jarula to go and see if the boy is alright. He promises her to do it.
Hallenberg comes to see Jarula in his room. The young lieutenant tells him he simply has to get back to his unit. The judge says that's a pity because he was enjoying the lieutenant's sophisticated conversation. He leaves the room and gets on the back of a wagon. Now Miina is very upset. Hallenberg has to eat alone and does so in a drunken state. Jarula now has to walk. He stops at farms to ask the way. He finally finds the house of Rapola. The children look at him very warily. He sees Eino and asks the boy to confirm it. A little girl says: "He's Eikka the Bastard."
A hostile father comes up to ask Jarula what he wants. Jarula says he was asked by the court-martial judges to see if Eino is doing alright. The man says the boy is starving just like all the rest of the children. He encourages Jarula to take the boy with him, because they can barely feed him. Jarula now asks about Miina, who he assumes is the mother of Eino. The farmer says the boy's mother is Martta Kivela and she followed his son to war. She left Eino behind with them and he has not heard from the "whore" since then. Dad says that the woman fucked all the soldiers. And now he chases Jarula off his land.
Jarula marches back, but soon realizes that Eino is following him. He tells the boy to go home, but the boy refuses. He finds out from Jarula that his mother is dead.
The judge has more Reds executed by firing squad, but Miina is still alive. Hallenberg looks at her through a peephole while drinking. Later Miinna tries to break the door down or at least loosen the lock, but all she gets is a beating from a guard. At Eino's request, Jarula shows him how to shoot a rifle. Jarula even lets the boy smoke the last of a cigarette.
Jarula takes Eino up to a group of Whites who are picking up older people and children to take them to town via a railway cart pulling a flat bed cart. He tells Eino he will be better off there. The boy starts crying and asks if someone will come for him? Jarula smiles and says yes, he will. The boy says promise me, but Jarula does not reply.
The judge has hot water, soap and towel, along with new clothes, for Miina. She takes a bath (some nudity). The judge watches through the peep hole. Miina looks at the peep hole. Now all washed and with nice clothes on the guards take Miina up to the old sanatorium to have dinner with the judge.
Miina really eats the food quickly. Hallenberg asks her what happened on that island between her and Jarula? She says not much because they were frozen most of the time. She asks if he wants to know whether she had sex with Jarula? She takes off her sweater and starts to take off her blouse. He tells her to sit down, but she ignores him. She finishes taking of the blouse and exposes her breasts (some nudity). Now she starts to take off her socks. Miina asks him what does he think of her body, as she starts to masturbate. She sits and starts to work her right hand up the judge's left leg. She starts to give him oral sex, when he pushes her away. She says to him: "Fine, shoot me yourself!" She approaches him again for oral sex, but he slaps her away. So now she asks him: "Why am I still alive?" Is it because of Lt. Jarula? A guard comes in and the judge tells him to take the woman away. Back in her cell Miina cries.
Jarula comes back to the old sanatorium. He sees lots of dead bodies behind the execution stone wall. He tries to get past the guards to see Miina, but the guards force him away. Through the wall slit, Miina sees him as he walks away. Jarula goes down to the water where photos of Mrs. Hallenberg are being taken. Hallenberg is very happy to see the young man, who tells the judge that he has been assigned to this post. . Mrs. Hallenberg is not too happy that her husband because she either heard about or saw the many dead bodies behind the execution wall. She also sees him shoot a seagull out of the air and thinks it beastly.
Back at the sanitarium the three of them talk. Mrs. Hallenberg seems to keep staring at Jarula. She asks her husband to recite something. He recites a poem, on which the husband and wife differ in their interpretations. The poem says something about the relationship between the three people. A man loves a young man as a son. He so wants him as a son that he gives his wife to him. Mrs. Hallenberg decides to play the piano, but before she does so she says all that her husband has become a savage like the savages he judges. She starts playing the piano.
While Jarula is in the bathroom, the judge's wife comes in. She takes off her dress and under things and puts Jarula's hand on her breasts. She bends over the sink and Jarula has sex with her from behind. It doesn't take Jarula very long to finish. Hallenberg goes over to the rest room and sees Jarula coming out of the room, while the Mrs. is still naked. The next day the two officers say goodbye to Mrs. Hallenberg.
The judge will sit in judgment over Miina. Jarula is sent to bring her to the "court room". He tells her to pretend that she is Martta Kivela, she has a son waiting for her, and she was not an active fighter. When Miina comes before the judge she insists that her real name is Miina Malin. The judge says that she and her female troop murdered both civilians and civil guards. "According to Finnish martial law, I sentence you to death. The sentence will be carried out tomorrow."
Jarula watches as the guards take her back to her cell. The judge says that he talked to Jarula's superior officer and the officer reported that Aaro never reported back to his unit. Jarula is now a wanted man. The judge now says he is not at monster -- he will allow Jarula to say goodbye to Miina. Jarula walks out of the room and down to Miina's cell.
Jarula wants explanations for why Miina decided not to defend herself. Miina comes over to him and bends down to whisper in his ear. She says that Hallenberg is watching them. "He wants you. Fulfill your promise. Get me out of here."
Jarula goes back to see Hallenberg. The judge says he feels like dancing and tells Jarula to play the piano. He then asks how did Jarula enjoy Mrs. Hallenberg's company? Aaro says nothing. He goes on playing. Now Hallenberg wants to know if Miina and Aaro fornicated while they were on the island? Jarula says He never touched "that woman". This pleases Hallenberg, who replies: "I knew it, Aaro. You're different, just like I am." Now he asks Aaro to dance with him like two soldiers dance together.
And so they dance, but like man and woman, not two soldiers. While dancing, the judge asks if Jarula asks for clemency for his prisoner? "I do," says the young man. The judge will set her free, but only if Jarula agrees to sleep together with him over night.
At night Hallenberg starts kissing a naked Aaro. Soon Aaro is sitting on top of the judge, having sex with him. In the morning, it is raining very hard. Hallenberg gives the rifle to Aaro, kisses him goodbye and asks if he will return? Aaro says he will. He goes down to the cell and ties Miina's hands together. He walks her to the execution wall in the rain. A detachment from Jarula's unit comes to get Jarula. One of the guards tells them that Jarula took the prisoner and went to the execution wall.
The rain has stopped. With her hands still tied, Miina walks ahead of Aaro. He stops her and takes off her ropes. He gives her his coat to wear and returns her photo of Eino. Miina asks him to come with her. They kiss. Here comes the detachment of soldiers. Miina takes off running. The detachment stops for Jarula and shouts at him that he is letting the prisoner go. Jarula tells them that Judge Hallenberg freed her. They call him a liar, but he repeats what he said. A fellow says they won't shoot the woman, but he draws out his saber out of its scabbard. Now the swordsman races after her on horseback. The man is about to clobber Miina with his saber, when Jarula shoots the man in the back. And now the soldiers shoot Jarula in the back.
The detachment reports to Hallenberg that the woman escaped. Their comrade was killed by Jarula and then they shot Jarula in the back. Jarula's body is thrown in with the executed bodies behind the execution wall.
Hallenberg hangs himself with the help of that last surviving patient of the sanitarium.
A pregnant Miina walks to the orphanage. A sister goes and gets Eino and brings him down. Eino sees "Aunt" Miina and she tells him that now he gets to come home with her. Eino says nothing. The female director of the place tells Miina that it was a real tragedy what happened to Hallenberg. Finland has certainly lost one of its great writers. And she hears that Mrs. Hallenberg is pregnant. Did Miina know him well? Miina says: "Very well."
Miina and Eino walk away from the orphanage. She tells Eino that her name is Miina, and no, she is not his aunt, but adds: "I guess we fooled them proper." She then asks if she can call him Eikka? Yes. He asks her if he can call her mother? Yes. They hold hands and continue walking.
It looks as though Miina is rowing Eikka over to the island where she and her lieutenant stayed in the small shack.
Good film. The film reminds me of the film Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967) with Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor and Brian Keith. That's already saying too much for those who have seen the earlier film. I was confused about the motivation of the judge and wondered just what he was up to. Toward the end I started thinking that if this film going to be a replay of the 1967 film? It is somewhat similar. Actually, I never really understood the 1967 film until when I was much older and was reading books on film. Oh, well, those were different days than the first and second decades of the 21st century. I had a foreboding that the film was not going to have a happy ending. It was a little happy, but not by much.
Those days of the civil war in Finland must have been very brutal ones, judging from this film. In Wikipedia the point is made that most of the victims of the civil war died off the battlefields. "Three-quarters of the dead were Red combatants and sympathizers. Most of the deaths were caused by political terror campaigns and high prison camp mortality rates. The civil war caused a severe food shortage, destroyed the Finnish economy, demolished the political apparatus and divided the Finnish nation for many years."
The film is rated okay for ages 15 and up.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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