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Finland, 1955 (MIFF 1960, Programme 14)

Director: Edvin Laine

Sven Dufva is a historical epic from the Finno-Russian War 1808-09. The story starts a few months before the war breaks out and shows us Sven, a simple, good-hearted farmer boy, who seems to be hapless and misfortunate in all his civil enterprises. He then wants to join the army, and although his mother despairs at this proposition, the father - a sergeant from the last war - agrees to his wish. Sven thinks that war will be easy: you just have to shout "Hurray" and to spear the enemy with your bayonet.

Sven is not considered clever enough to fight as a soldier - he is placed as the cook's orderly. When a destruction party is to go behind enemy lines, Sven asks his captain: "How cleverly does a soldier have to die, before it is considered all right?" So he is taken with the party and, it so happens, saves the life of his superior by shooting a Russian who aims at the captain. The man is deadly wounded, but Sven cannot bring himself to stab him with his bayonet. War isn't at all so simple a matter as Sven had thought.

Later, he saves his whole company. He leaves his watchpost to go for wood and encounters a group of Russians preparing for a surprise attack. His absence is noticed by the corporal, but the connection is never realised. Sven's reward is a reprimand.

But his blunders are not always so fortunate. When ordered to prevent any enemies from crossing the lake and landing on the Finnish side, Sven holds a group of negotiators at arm's length, and firmly states that he won't be fooled by a bit of white shirt!

However, his career ends in a hero's death. So, we are left face to face with man's eternal quest: the meaning of his life, and the meaninglessness of war.

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