Contemporary World Cinema | 2017 | 103 minutes
Stranger Says: A Finnish man finds himself leading a dangerous double life on a Soviet collective farm in the 1930s. Director AJ Annila has a brawny, aggressive style (his earlier horror film Sauna maintained an impressively dreadful momentum), which gives this true story unusual amounts of kinetic oomph. Unfortunately, the content often seems to be weirdly at odds with the form, squandering more than a few sequences of potential energy by bogging down in standard bio-pic conventions. Still, this remains an interesting, largely unrepresented tale of reluctant heroism, even when you can feel it straining at the bit.
SIFF Says:When the Great Depression destroyed the western world’s economy, thousands of American and Canadian citizens came to the Soviet Union under Stalin’s promise of building a true worker’s paradise. But Jussi Ketola (Tommi Korpela, THE OTHER SIDE OF HOPE) and his family have chosen to return from America to his homeland of Finland, a country currently embroiled in a bloody civil war that has divided its citizens into Reds and Whites. One night, a group of men break into Jussi’s farm, accuse him of being a socialist, and violently transport him over the border. Now trapped in Petrozavodsk in the Soviet Union, Jussi is accused of being a Finnish spy and told that, should he wish to remain alive, he must assume a new identity, infiltrate a farm collective, and inform his handlers of any suspicious activity. Now, with his family back home thinking him dead, Jussi begrudgingly accepts his missions and finds solace in an American widow named Sara (Sidse Babett Knudsen, “Westworld”). But as the increasingly paranoid communist regime takes hold of Europe, Julli discovers that any semblance of happiness can be ripped away at any moment. Winner of Best Film at the 2018 Jussi Awards, Finland’s equivalent to the Academy Awards®, THE ETERNAL ROAD is an epic story of one man’s struggle to survive.
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