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Brave enough to die for nothing. Raja 1918 / Border 1918 (2007)

Brave enough to die for nothing. Raja 1918 / Border 1918 (2007)

Raja 1918 is a war genre movie, made by Finland and Russia jointly and advertised mainly (if not only) in those two countries, which is a pity – to my mind, it’s good enough to show to the world. I’d rank it somewhat higher than Flags of Our Fathers & many others. Honest.

A few words in honor of the producer. Lauri Törhönen is no freshman in movie making; he was the one who filmed “The Faceless Man” (1995), ” Abandoned Houses, Empty Homes” (2000), Paradise America (1990), and “Tropic of Ice” (1987). And he was also a co-scriptwriter for most of his movies.

The plot is made to the events of the Finnish Civil War of 1918 (yes, there was a civil war in Finland), right after the country became independent.

The new border

The new border

War is evil. Civil war is a hundred times more evil, even more chaos, fear, blood, anger, death. Bro killing a bro just because one is “red” (communist) and the other is “white”. Mothers getting separated from their children. Fathers and sons perishing in the flames. Pure hell…

Here come our heroes. “White” captain von Munch, his femme fatale Marja Lintu, her “red” fiancée Heikki, and commandant Gench, Munch’s colleague on the opposite side of the border. These are all different as chalk & cheese, yet they are brought together tragically by destiny.

Marja and von Munch

Marja and von Munch

Von Munch’s task is to mark the new border between Finland and the Soviets, guard it day and night and “sort out” people wishing to cross it. At first Carl, same as Marja, tries to stay clean, to compromise between the orders from Helsinki and common sense. When he falls in love with the beautiful and educated Ms. Lintu* he also takes compassion into account. Marja, in turn, is being torn between her newly born feeling towards von Munch and her obligations to Heikki. She also strongly disapproves of the changes that Finns bring to earlier neighborly and peaceful life of this place. Meanwhile, von Munch’s cooperation with Gench turns into friendship, they share leisure, information, and opinions.

That’s where bells start tolling. We all know the war’s ABCs, don’t we:

1. Civil war is the least natural thing in the world. It’s against all common sense.
2. It’s impossible to stay intact or aside. Even if you’re unaware, you might already be a target.
3. In a war, everybody has to make his choice, sooner or later, at whatever price. Want to stay clean, neutral, kind, friendly, fair? Forget it. Those who have doubts die first.

Item 3 is impossibility for some in Raja 1918. Marja. Dr. Perret. Gench. Von Munch… well, almost. He’s saved with an accidental shot of his subordinate who cherished a revenge of his own.

Actors deserve a separate wow, except for a few funny figures. The “Latvian gunner” (one of a group of people who really existed and played rather an evil part in Russian history) with poorly glued moustache and Roman Schatz as Mayor Benner. I like Schatz very much, but he’s so civil he cannot hide it even under a uniform :-D.

*lintu is a bird in Finnish. Birds love freedom, which is also one of this movie’s headstones.

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