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In 1941 Finnish troops pushed forward info Russian territory to recapture the isthmus, of Karelia, which the Russians took from Finland in 1939. A machine-gun detachment of National Servicemen is sent in the van of the advance, and we follow their stories and fates until, in 1944, the Russians launch a major offensive and push them all the way back into Finland.

There is no connected story, only a series of incidents — the men under fire for the first time, reaching the capital of Eastern Karelia, becoming drunk on Mannerheim Day, defending their trenches for month after month against the Russians, and finally retreating, empty and defeated. With The Unknown Soldier the point Is clear. The whole effort of the campaign was wasted. Within this framework all aspects of war can be shown without distortion, everything that happens, momentous or trivial, takes its perspective from the beginning and the end of the film. We see supressed fear, bravado and cowardice, and genuine heroism.

Above all, we see the makeshift community of the army camp gradually adjust itself to a common danger, as the men fight for the honour of their country.

In spite of the episodic news reel quality, there remains a powerful sense of the reality of war as seen from the point of view of the soldier who has to do the fighting The characters have a vitality and individuality that is refreshing after the stereo types of more sophisticated films, and the grim landscapes are fnghteningly impressive. The film is s masterly document which makes the Chauvinistic heroics of the average war film puny and pitiful.