Finland’s Hitchcock-Like “Compartment No. 6” is Oscar Shortlisted.

Olli Maki

I loved Finnish Director Juho Kuosmanen’s debut feature “The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki”. Based on an episode from the life of Finland’s greatest lightweight boxer, it treats its hero with great affection and respect.

Seidi Haarla in "Compartment No. 6".

“Strangers on a Train”.

Not so much his sophomore outing “Compartment No. 6” which revisits Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train”. Finland’s entry for Best International Film, it was shortlisted, but did not make the final five.

Compartment No.6

Too many Questions.

The opening scenes raise a whole bunch of questions. It’s heroine Laura (newcomer Seidi Haarla), a Finnish archeology student, is travelling in a post-USSR breakup Russia in what would appear to be the late nineties. There are no cellphones or other modern high tech devises.

Compartment No 6

TheMurmansk Petroglyphs.

1) Why is Laura in a lesbian relationship during the films’ opening scenes, set in a chic Moscow apartment, while she spends the rest of the movie in asexual friendship mode? 2) Why is her girlfriend so callous and disrespectful toward her? 3) Why does said girlfriend change her mind about going on a trip from Moscow to Murmansk with Lisa. The trip is, ostensibly, to see the just discovered (1997) Kanozero Petroglyphs, a series of Neolithic rock drawings that have been dated to between 1,000 and 3,000 BC. And (4), why do these opening scenes have little or no bearing on what happens in the rest of the movie. They have no relationship to plot development. No relationship to character development?

Compartment No. 6. Boarding the train.

“It happened One Night” Redux!

What does happen is that Lara decides to take the long journey by herself. However, she has to share her train compartment with a young man named Vadim (Yuri Borisov) who is also going to Murmansk to work in the mines. Before you can say “It Happened One Night” they instantly dislike each other, then gradually become friends and even something more……….

Haarla and Borisov are very good together but, without much material or background to flesh out their characters we begin to lose interest, and, eventually, tune out entirely.

So, “Compartment No. 6” is certainly not a failure but a bit of a sophomore slump from Mr. Kuosmanen. However, I still feel that he has a movie worthy of Hitchcock buried deep down inside and that we will witness its delivery sometime in the near future.


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