Beyond the front line - the battle for Karelia

Title: Beyond the frontline – the battle for Karelia
Director: Åke Lidman
Cast: Tobias Zilliacus, Ilkka Heiskanen, Christoffer Westerlund a.o.
Released: 2004, on DVD 2013
Playing time: 127 minutes

In 1942, the prospect of victory over the Soviet Union had dwindled considerably for the Wehrmacht and its allies. The Red Army, considered by Hitler as already defeated, had revived and had managed to achieve increasing success. Being an ally of the German army, Finland and the Finnish army were also faced with an advancing Red Army. "Beyond the front line – the battle for Karelia" (in Finnish Framom främsta linjen) shows how the Finnish army, following the Winter War of 1939 to 1940, is under threat again from Soviet armed forces.

The movie, based on real people and events tells the story of 22-year-old lieutenant Harry Järv, commander of a Finnish reconnaissance and combat unit of the 61 Infantry Regiment during the so-called Soviet-Finnish follow-up war from 1941 to 1944. The young men of this unit are under enormous pressure every day, as part of the Finnish defensive belt. It really becomes clear after the start of a massive Soviet offensive on the Karelian isthmus in northwestern Russia. The daily reconnaissance and combat take their toll. In addition, talented Russian snipers make life on the Finnish defensive lines increasingly difficult. Järvs unit is ordered to advance from eastern Karelia towards the city of Tienhaara, besieged by the Red Army and protect it at all cost. Beyond this city, the road to Helsinki and the rest of Finland lies wide open for the Red Army. The Finnish army manages to hold out but the 61 Infantry Regiment suffers severe losses.

Making a movie out of a good war story has proven very difficult over the years. The correct emotions and circumstances are often difficult to convey to the modern viewer. Unfortunately, the makers of "Beyond the frontline" have also hardly managed to produce a gripping and in depth war epic. The Finnish battle actions are very one sided and often confusing. Russian opponents seldom come into view and are consistently portrayed as stupid, inexperienced soldiers. The actors scarcely know how to convey the emotions you would expect of a soldier, under fire at the front. Something that also undermines the credibility is that the soldiers seem to possess almost paranormal talents (mines are successfully located on a hunch and without any equipment), and some scenes look like slapstick when for instance only the helmet is shot off a soldier’s head in an incredible way.

This undoubtedly is a low budget movie. The young and inexperienced cast scarcely seems to know what a veteran must have felt at the time. Yet, a moving like "Uprising" from 2001 (about the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto) shows that even without an enormous budget and with the right means, a captivating movie can be made. This Finnish movie unfortunately failed in this respect. That is a pity because the Finnish army has frequently shown during World War Two what a relatively small army is capable of. "Beyond the front line – the battle for Karelia" could have been a fine tribute to the Finnish victims of the war and could have informed the viewer about a relatively unknown front but unfortunately in this it fails.

Rating: Average


Translated by:
Arnold Palthe
Article by:
Han Smits
Published on:
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