I’m going to commit a questionable error of classification, in saying that I have for some time now been fostering an interest in films from Scandinavia – including Finland. Some do not include Finland in the list of Scandinavian countries. However, I was recently told by two Swedish young ladies that they considered Finland to be part of Scandinavia, so I will err on the side of inclusion.
This afternoon I watched the 2005 film Äideistä parhain (“Mother of Mine”), which was Finland’s submission to the Oscars that year in the Foreign Language category. The film tells the bittersweet tale of a young Finnish boy, sent away for safety to a Swedish farm during World War Two, and how the resulting tug of war with his emotions and affections changes his life. At first I just expected something along the lines of the 1987 film “Hope & Glory” – which I didn’t particularly care for – but there are some twists and turns, some exploration of the nature of self-sacrifice and love, that really impressed me.
I am not, by blood, Scandinavian; nor have I ever been to Scandinavia. However, the more that I see films by Per Fly, Bent Hamer, and Anders Thomas Jensen, the more I read works by Knut Hamsun, August Strindberg, and Sigrid Undsett, the more I am impressed. There must be something in the soil, for the native cultural richness seems to pour out more treasures each time I scratch beneath the surface, simultaneously familiar and alien, refined yet simple, Christian yet pagan. Just a few days ago, I showed one of my favourite films, Babette’s gaestebud (“Babette’s Feast”) to a group of young adults at my parish, and as I was preparing the notes for my introduction I once again savoured the exceptional good taste and restraint that went into the making of that masterpiece.
Naturally, such a growing affection makes things a bit difficult. It was fine when I was merely an aficionado of all things from Spain, given my family background and the amount of time I have spent there. Similarly, it was understandable that I became an Anglophile after having lived in London for over two years. In either case, there was no (real) language barrier, and the business of feeding my passions was easily conducted.
Now however, I seem to be developing an interest in a region comprising several nations rather than an individual state, with several different languages – none of which I speak – and which are even more remote geographically and in other respects than Iberia or Britain. I suppose that I have the luxury of modern communication to aid in my further development of this interest. However, this does not mean that I am going to have any easier a time of it than did those ancient Briton and Celtic ancestors of mine, who had to deal with a more frontal assault by these pesky Vikings.