Sunday, December 6, 2015

Finnish Independence Day Special 2: Tali-Ihantala 1944

Tali-Ihantala 1944 a.k.a 1944: The Final Defence
Åke Lindman Film-Productions, Finland, 2007.
Tali-Ihantala 1944 title
The Continuation War, June 1944. Germany has been defeated on the eastern front. The Soviet Union is launching a massive offensive against Finland. The Finns are retreating in the Karelian Isthmus. General Lagus (Marcus Groth) orders a counter-attack. Anti-tank squadron is sent first. The Russians are numerically superior with 450000 Russians agains 75000 Finns. Tanks are scarce and Finns have to seize every opportunity to capture damaged enemy tanks.

In the initial battle general's son Olof Lagus (Onni Thulesius) destroys four Russian tanks in less than a minute. However the troops must retreat. Field Marshal Mannerheim (Asko Sarkola) orders Lieutenant General Karl Oesch (Jukka Puotila) to command the troops in Isthmus. Lieutenant General Aksel Airo (Pirkka-Pekka Petelius) orders fortification of  Viipuri-Kuparsaari-Taipale defensive line.
Pirkka-Pekka Petelius
Lieutenant General Aksel Airo
-Why are there swastikas on the tanks, because of Hitler?
-Bollocks. We used it first. Hitler stole it from us and made the cross crooked.
Majors Jouko Hynninen (Tarmo Ruubel) and Eero Leppänen (Kari Ketonen) are ordered to take back the lost area. Major Leppänen dies in the battle. Initial Russian counter-attacks are pushed back. Despite being wounded Sergeant Reino Lehväslaiho (Marc Gassot) destroys a Russian infantry company using Suomi-submachine gun. After the War Lehväslaiho became a popular war novelist with 45 published novels.
Tarmo Ruubel and Kari Ketonen
Majors Hynninen and Leppänen
Marc Gassot
Sergeant Lehväslaiho
In 25 June 1944 Russians start break-through attack near Tali parish village. Volunteer Swedish soldiers arrive to help defending the area. Language barrier makes their Panzerfaust-training dangerous to themselves as they do not understand the warning about rocket launcher's backblast.
Major Heikki Mikkola (Taisto Oksanen) and Second Lieutenant Erkki Teppo (Aleksi Sariola)
The Soviet resistance is heavy and Lagus' troops are getting exhausted. Olof is wounded. In 28 June Lagus' troops are given chance for rest when Major General Vihma (Olli Ikonen) takes charge.
Lance Corporal Olof Lagus (Onni Thulesius)
Radio reconnaissance intercepts Russian message about crucial attack on Ihantala in 3 July. The Finnish have time for countermeasures. Massive artillery barrage and Messerschmitt attacks stop the attack of Soviet troops.
The defensive victory in Battle of Tali-Ihantala and other Finnish victories convinced the Soviets that conquering Finland was not worth the cost. The stakes were high. If the Finns had lost it would have meant occupation of Finland by Soviet Union, the fate of Baltic countries and East European countries. Although the costs as lost men, war reparations and lost areas were high Finland maintained its independence

Rather than being a plot-driven movie, this has the feel of documentary or historical re-enactment. The health of director Lindman did not allow finishing the movie so Sakari Kirjavainen continued. Lindman wanted the film to be realistic and show the sacrifices of Finnish war veterans. Historically it is accurate and honours the war veterans. However the dramatical impact is lessened as there is less focus on plot or characters, rather we follow the operations of small groups of men. Most drama we get from Hynninen and Leppänen arc and also general Lagus is worried about his son, who he had to sent to front line so that he would not be accused of favouritism.

Everyone from lowest ranking soldiers to generals does his duty. Familiar faces from Finnish TV and films get their brief moments to portray soldiers that are based on real-life war heroes. Lots of real museum tanks and airplanes from WW2 were used in filming and also some archive material is used. Maps show the front lines, making the advancement of troops more easier to see.

Some individual acts of courage are shown as when 29 June 1944 Lance Corporal Ville Väisänen (Markku Hyvönen) destroys eight Soviet tanks with Panzerfausts. Also some moments of compassion about the enemy are shown as when Russian soldier carries injured Finnish soldier to safety.

Recommended for its historically accurate portrayal of an important part of Finnish history. 

Rating: Good

Starring: Rauno Ahonen, Mikko Bredenberg, Riko Eklundh, Marc Gassot, Marcus Groth, Johan Hallström, Kari Hevossaari, Markku Hyvönen, Janne Hyytiäinen, Viggo Idman, Olli Ikonen, Tapani Kalliomäki, Jarkko Nyman, Janne Kallioniemi, Kari Ketonen, Pete Lattu, Mika Nuojua, Tommi Liski, Jesper Malm, Taisto Oksanen, Teemu Palosaari, Jukka-Pekka Pentikäinen, Pirkka-Pekka Petelius, Jukka Puotila, Taisto Reimaluoto, Tuomas Rinta-Panttila, Tarmo Ruubel, Christian Sandström, Aleksi Sariola, Asko Sarkola, Fabian Silén, Robin Svartström, Jan-Christian Söderholm, Onni Thulesius, Jarkko Tiainen, Antti Timonen, Timo Torikka, Timo Tuominen, Kasperi Nordman, Riku Korhonen, Ilkka Villi, Tomi Etelävuori, Aku Hirviniemi, Joonas Saartamo, Santtu Karvonen, Matti Laine, Harri Liuksiala, Jussi Nikkilä, Antti Launonen, Janne Vakio, Timo Mann
Directors: Åke Lindman, Sakari Kirjavainen

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