[L’ultima estate 1944] T. Scen.: Peter von Bagh. F.: Juha-Veli Äkräs. M.: Anne Lakanen. Int.: Veera Alén, Veli Arrela, Emma Forsberg, Esteri Halmetoja, Toivo Hiltunen, Jussi Juntunen, Jaakko Jurvakainen, Helmi Karvonen, Veikko Keränen, Yrjö Kostermaa, Olavi Kotkavuori, Osmo Kähkölä, Eero Lempiäinen, Lyyli Lempiäinen. Prod.: Heikki Takkinen per Yleisradio TV2, Filminor Oy . Digibeta. D.: 105’. Col.
In Finland’s official popular memory, the Winter War became the nation’s days of glory – despite the territorial losses suffered and a peace treaty that had President Kyösti Kallio hiss “May my hand, which is forced to sign such a paper, wither”. The Continuation War, then, was something else: the fighting went on for more than three years (June ’41 till September ’44), Finland was slowly bleeding away; in the end, it took a political ruse to get the nation out of this miasmatic mess – that left vast parts of northern Finland in ruins after the Nazi-German Army had taken its bloody revenge on the Waffenbrüder who hadn’t honoured their pledge of allegiance (which would have meant: dying alongside the Reich). Viimeinen kesä 1944 is part of a lose tetralogy about decisive years (or periods) in Finnish history. As he himself once noted in passing: almost by accident, he did them in an order that reflects the complexity of the experiences these moments encapsulate: Vuosi 1952 (1980) is a joyful work about a postwar nation regaining its footing, finding its way back into the world; Muisto (1987), on the other hand, is about the bleakness of the nation’s birth from the horrors of a civil war whose non-memory still haunts Finland; 1939 (1993), finally, shows the last months prior to the outbreak of the Winter War as a period that seemed to consist of nothing but contradictions solvable only through an act of violence. More than the other entries in this epic, Viimeinen kesä 1944 is a work of collective remembrance – an oratorio-in-prose, really, a memorial mess for a time gone and people fallen. Von Bagh uses comparatively little archival material here – instead, he gazes long and hard, loving, caring, worried, kind and sceptical into the faces of choice elderlies trying to tell how those last months of tired drudging on passed by: of time slowing down ever more until that stand-still called capitulation.