Director Aku Louhimies studies the practices of film directing


The new film version of the novel The Unknown Soldier has its premiere last week. For the film's director Aku Louhimies, the film also serves as a research subject at Aalto University.

Photo: Tommi Hynynen (c) Elokuvaosakeyhtiö Suomi 2017.

The previous film versions of Väinö Linna's classic novel The Unknown Soldier were made in the 1950s, with Edvin Laine as director, and in the 1980s, when it was directed by Rauni Mollberg. In addition to director and scriptwriter Aku Louhimies, the latest film features a whole bunch of famous Finnish actors.

Louhimies is widely known for his films. However, very few people know that he is also a Doctoral Candidate at the Aalto University's Department of Film, Television and Scenography. His research subject is film directing, and he uses himself as director and his own films as research material. We asked Aku Louhimies a few questions about his current research.


Director Aku Louhimies. Photo: Juha Mustonen (c) Elokuvaosakeyhtiö Suomi 2017.

What is the starting point for your research?

‘I’m interested in studying the practices of film directing and generating some basic research within the field. What does the film director do, how does it affect the film and what the director could do better? The answer to the question what a good film is like is, of course, subjective, and that is also the reason why I use myself and my own experiences as source material.’

How has your research affected the making of The Unknown Soldier?

‘Different kind of measurable data has been collected of making films, such as working hours, the number of shots and practice times. In deviation from normal film making, during the production of The Unknown Soldier, I measured my own physical alertness and recovery with the help of Firstbeat heart rate variability analysis. Through the use of the device, it became emphasised in the material how the director's psychophysical state becomes visible in the artistic outcome.’

What kind of observations have you already made or what kind of results have you obtained?

‘I have now put together most of the material, and I have a hunch that it will reveal many truths that are kind of self-evident, such as for the best results it is good to practice. Or that you do not make as good decisions when you are exhausted as you do when you are rested. On the other hand, stress is not always a bad thing. Based on preliminary analysis, I have found some interesting features among the observations related to coping, concentration and stress management that are interesting to compare with the data collected on other activities and the work itself.’

How will your research work continue?

‘The material is now compiled, and next I’m planning to focus the research question and find a supervisor for my research. Since scientific observation of film directing has been quite limited in Finland, I’m setting my sights on foreign researchers or fields outside the film research, such as management research.’

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