On location in Estonia at filming of Sofi Oksanen’s Purge
Director Antti Jokinen says Oksanen’s story has no absolute villains
By Kaja Kunnas
Shooting of the film version of Purge by author Sofi Oksanen is in full swing. The yard of the remote Otsa farmhouse is full of equipment used by the crew: several cars, three lorries, five vans, a crane, a trailer, and portable plastic toilets.
Director Antti Jokinen gives instructions in Finnish, which are repeated in English by megaphone by assistant director Jouni Mutanen.
But at the gate time stands still.
It is the autumn of 1944. The bright autumn sun peeks between the clouds. It is windy.
Two sisters, the blonde Aliide (Laura Birn) and the dark-haired Ingel (Krista Kosonen) meet a group of men with Estonian flags, pitchforks, and rifles.
They are Estonian guerrillas, “forest brothers”, who are fighting against the Soviet occupiers.
The forest brothers ask the women about Hans, their comrade, as they are preparing to take the municipal hall back from the soldiers. During the scene the women understand that they need to hide Hans, first from the forest brothers, and then from the Soviet secret police.
Each of the sisters is in love with Hans.
A conversation ensues: “With just six men? Are you crazy? They’ll kill you.”
“I don’t think so, and even if they do kill us, it is better to die free than to live as a slave”, says one of the forest brothers (Reino Nordin).
There is another take.
“They won’t kill us, and even if they do kill us, it is better to die free than to live as a slave”,
“Yes, that’s better. I like this now. Let’s take it again”, director Jokinen says.
“Cut, thank you. One more time."
The take is repeated about ten times on this October day of the shooting. Finally the rhythm of the speech, the volume, the location of the actors, and the emotional feeling are just right.
The forest brothers take to the village road with Estonia’s blue, white, and black flag flying at the end of a pole.
A forest brother by the name of Jaan Berg Taavi Eelma turns around and waves his hand.
At the gate Aliide smiles, waves, and quietly mutters: “Die. Die.”
The scene at the gate is ready.
It will be only a short flash on the screen.
During the entire day of shooting, clips totalling about two and a half minutes of screen time are completed.
The film version of Sofi Oksanen’s best-selling novel Purge is a Finnish-Estonian joint production.
“In the novel I fell in love with the tragic love story. The film is above all a story about people”, director Antti Jokinen says.
“History is the environment, just as it is in the book. It affects people’s choices, their morality, and their behavior, but this is not underscored”, he says.
Imprisonment and liberation become the main themes of the film. The social system changes, but forcing women into violence remains.
Aliide experiences the cruelty of Stalin in the Estonia of the 1940s, and carries the consequences throughout her life. The second protagonist, alongside Aliide, who at a more advanced age is played by Liisi Tandefelt, is Zara Amanda Pilke, a descendant of an exile and a victim of human trafficking in the 1990s.
Torture scenes were shot in September in Tallinn in the cellar of a house on Kunder Street. The scene opens up the possibility that Purge might get a rating that would restrict it to viewers over the age of 18. “Naturally we don’t want that. I think that it will have a 15 certificate”, Jokinen says.
The film will have no thoroughly evil characters. “There are fates and difficult choices. Not even the police officer is 100 per cent evil. He continued to live in his community, as incredible as it may sound.”
Jokinen’s’ goal is to bring to the screen an intimate psychodrama in which genocide and prison camps serve as an historic backdrop.
Hollywood movies have been made about the cruelties committed by Nazi Germany, but few internationally successful films have been produced about the atrocities committed during communism.
Would Purge, whose director Antti Jokinen, who has made a career in the United States, be the movie that brings the crimes against humanity committed during the period of communism to the consciousness of the Western audience?
“I have understood that there would be a need for such a film. As a director I would naturally not say that this is particular film would be the one that fills that hole”, Jokinen says.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 14.10.2011
Previously in HS International Edition:
Shooting of Purge movie is to start in Estonia next week (12.8.2001)
Estonian Foreign Minister weighs in in defence of Sofi Oksanen’s Purge
International acclaim for Sofi Oksanen’s Purge annoys some in Estonia (7.10.2010)
Tight schedule for New York theatre production of Sofi Oksanen´s Purge (15.2.2011)
KAJA KUNNAS / Helsingin Sanomat