GenreDrama, War Music directorAhti Sonninen LanguageFinnish
WriterJuha Nevalainen, Vaino Linna Release dateDecember 1955 Initial releaseDecember 23, 1955 (Finland) CastÅke Lindman (Lehto), Kosti Klemelä (Vilho Koskela), Heikki Savolainen (Urho Hietanen), Reino Tolvanen (Antero Rokka), Tauno Palo (Sarastie), Helena Vinkka (Vera) Similar moviesThe Winter War (1989)
The Unknown Soldier (Finnish: Tuntematon sotilas) is a Finnish film directed by Edvin Laine and premiered in December 1955. It is based on The Unknown Soldier, a novel by Väinö Linna. The story is about the Continuation War between Finland and the Soviet Union as told from the viewpoint of ordinary Finnish soldiers. The film was and remains the most successful movie ever in Finland; about 2.8 million people, or more than half the Finnish population, saw it in theaters. Its portrayal of Linna's characters is widely accepted as canonical.
Set against the events of the Finnish continuation war, the film follows a machine gun troops journey into Soviet Union. The troop includes the simple-minded Hietanen, the jokey Vanhala, the cynical Lahtinen, the cowardly Riitaoja and grumpy Lehto. The film also follows the command officers, such as the happy and slightly senile Captain Kaarna, the young and idealistic 2nd Lieutenant Kariluoto, the calm and modest 2nd lieutenant Koskela and the strict and unsympathetic Lieutenant Lammio. They face many struggles, such as seeing the supportive Kaarna die in their first battle, three of the soldiers refusing to leave their punishment post during an air-raid as well as defending the trenches after the Finns have taken back parts of Karelia. Part of the way, the troop is joined by Rokka, a Karelian veteran of the winter war, who also clashes with Lammio due to having little respect for military discipline despite being an excellent and capable soldier.
Throughout the film several of the main characters die. Lehto is injured during night-patrol, left behind and shoots himself. Riitaoja dies the same night when he runs off frightened and gets lost in the woods. Lahtinen dies during the winter, defending his position as his fellow soldiers flee. Hietanen becomes blinded when he saves a young serviceman from being shot. His military ambulance crashes and the blinded Hietanen is gunned down by passing Russian planes while trying to save the other injured soldiers. Kariluoto dies while leading a counter-attack, and shortly afterwards Koskela gets shot while destroying a tank using a satchel charge.
Kosti Klemelä as Lt. Koskela
Heikki Savolainen as Sgt. Hietanen
Reino Tolvanen as Cpl. Rokka
Veikko Sinisalo as Cpl. Lahtinen
Åke Lindman as Cpl. Lehto
Pentti Siimes as PFC. Määttä
Leo Riuttu as Pvt. Vanhala
Kaarlo Halttunen as Pvt. Rahikainen
Matti Ranin as Cpt. Kariluoto
Jussi Jurkka as Lt. Lammio
Tauno Palo as Maj. Sarastie
Pentti Irjala as Cpt. Kaarna
Vilho Siivola as Supply Cpl. Mäkilä
Olavi Ahonen as Pvt. Riitaoja
Tarmo Manni as Pvt. Honkajoki
Veli-Matti Kaitala as Pvt. Hauhia
Tapio Hämäläinen as Pvt. Salo
Martti Romppanen as Pvt. Sihvonen
Vili Auvinen as Pvt. Asumaniemi
Since 2000, Yle has broadcast the film every year on the Independence Day of Finland (December 6). In 2015, the movie was moved to Yle Teema, away from its usual slot on either Yle TV1 or Yle TV2.
In 1985 Rauni Mollberg directed a a remake of the film with Väinö Linna's approval. The film version follows the novel more closely - but also features obvious visual nods to the 1955 version.
A new film version, directed by Aku Louhimies is planned for 2017.