Each year, Finland’s Midnight Sun Film Festival draws crowds with a unique program: 24 hours of movies, played uninterrupted while the sun keeps shining. Drawing at least some inspiration from its namesake, Sodankyla Forever, which takes its title from the festival’s Finnish name, is passionate and overstuffed, a dense cinematic treatise as told by the directors themselves.
The film’s biggest asset is its unusual stable of auteurs, which delves beyond the usual voices for speeches from Jean Rouch, Joseph H. Lewis, and Ettore Scola. The relative obscurity of these figures ties into Sodankyla Forever’s prevailing interests, which eventually come through in patchwork form. Using footage from a minor festival taking place in an isolated corner of the world, it presents moviemaking as a battle of underdogs against unbeatable forces, scrabbling to keep their work untouched.
The running theme of all these lectures becomes the external duress that shapes films and creative cultures, from the global calamity of World War II to the cold clutches of communism, on to the strictures of the American studio system. Milos Forman’s comment that he was the best person to direct One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest because it was fundamentally a Czech movie indicates a shared experience that crosses national and political lines.
The realization that filmmaking is a struggle for every director seems like a pat conclusion, but Sodankyla Forever digs deeper, exploring the effects of these pressures on individual voices, and how new solutions are shaped in response. This is all crystallized through a debate over a screening of Battleship Potemkin where filmmakers who lived under Soviet rule argue the work’s merits. Some walk out in protest. Others defend the movie, claiming Eisenstein as a fellow victim of inviolable totalitarian demands. The film defers to neither side, its endless parade of half-familiar faces only serving to identify the fragility of their product.
Sodankyla Forever will play on February 19 as part of this year’s Film Comment Selects series. To purchase tickets, click here.