Jolly Cinema > 14:30


Mikko Niskanen
Introduced by

Antti Alanen (National Audiovisual Institute, Finland) and Anna von Bagh

With a 15’ break


Monday 27/06/2022


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

Kahdeksan surmanluotia was originally broadcast in Finland as a four-part television series. The late film historian and filmmaker Peter von Bagh was a tireless advocate for this film’s restoration, which has inspired an entire generation of filmmakers, including Aki Kaurismaki. In order to honour Peter’s legacy and his wish to respect the specific aesthetic of the film, after different workflows were taken into consideration and several tests were performed it was eventually decided to opt for a combination of digital and analogue workflows. The 4K scan and restoration of the original 16mm (A&B) was followed by a film-out onto a fine grain from which a new 35mm was struck. The restoration, completed after almost three years, produced a new 35mm internegative.
Relatively little is known of Mikko Niskanen (1929-90), whose output of 14 features is highly uneven. The first three were about war, the following three about youth, and then came Kahdeksan surmanluotia, a 316-minute film made for television based on a 1969 news item about the killing of four policemen by farmer Tauno Pasanen. In Finland, the general public and film specialists agree that it is their national cinema’s masterpiece. It is compared by some to the work of Béla Tarr, while others, more classica ly, maintain that it is what the full nine hours of Greed might have been like.
After finishing his sixth (and failed) feature, Niskanen had reached burnout. In his words, Pasanen’s story “energised my lifeless consciousness… The gunshots were an end to a long and logical chain of events… I didn’t choose this task, the task chose me.”
This was the starting point for a shattering closeup of poverty, and of a man up against the wall, at the most basic level. Religion, education, morality, and sundry spiritual peculiarities of rural Finland’s social order exert a crushing force and also deal the hand that Niskanen’s protagonist, Pasi, has to play: one man becomes a policeman who defends the ideals of family, church, and property; another becomes a poor cottager. Both are given guns, both are victims. Niskanen doesn’t resort to false romanticism or the clichés of humanist cinema, nor does he appeal to pity, which would be to position himself at a remove from the material. The film concentrates strictly on the familiar elements of everyday life, yet seems to float in a strange realm of unknown dimensions, at once psychological, hallucinatory, and concrete, abounding in observations with a sharp and sometimes merciless anthropological edge. Surely this is an instance of cinema replicating the techniques of 19th-century French literature, as observed by Olaf Möller who described Kahdeksan surmanluotia as “Zola-esque”. The main character picks up his gun and is clearly responsible for his actions, but the specific case Niskanen depicts nevertheless has a kind of universal relevance, concrete and humane, combining the psychological, biological, and social facts into a clenched fist. The fatal shots are part of a chain of societal circumstances that can’t simply be reduced to a ‘crime’.

Peter von Bagh, The Four Seasons of Drinking, “Encore”, 2012


Cast and Credits

Scen.: Mikko Niskanen. F.: Mikko Niskanen, Juhani Sarro, Seppo Immonen, Kimmo Simula, Juhani Voutilainen. M.: Jyrki Rapp. Scgf.: Jorma Lindfors. Mus.: Erkki Ertappa. Int.: Mikko Niskanen (Pasi), Tarja-Tuulikki Tarsala (Vaimo), Tauno Paananen (Tanu), Paavo Pentikäinen (Reiska), Elina Liimatainen (Ellu), Ari Vainiontaus (Ari), Mauno Argillander (Manu), Sulo Hokkanen (Sulo Kokki). Prod.: Mikko Niskanen per YLE. 35mm. Bn