121 minutes, Color
Helene Schjerfbeck was one of Finland's most renowned painters, whose long life straddled the mid-nineteenth and twentieth centuries and whose work ranged from strikingly detailed realistic portraiture to brash, emotionally charged modernist landscapes. Portrayed with stoic grace by Laura Birn, Helene confronts her place in a changing world and in the heart of young amateur painter Einar (Johannes Holopainen). The story is set against both WWI and Finland's own civil war, when Finland was seeking independence from Russia and, like Helene, trying to decide which way to go. Writer-director Antti J. Jokinen and co-writer Marko Leino focus on the part of Helen's life when she had been away from the art scene for many years and was just developing her bold new style. Great credit goes to cinematographer Rauno Ronkainen, whose every frame of this lush period piece can be viewed as a Renaissance oil painting on its own.—Dave Nuttycombe
In Finnish with English subtitles
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