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The first years of screenwriting in Finland were contradictory

A recent doctoral dissertation shows that the field balanced between seeking appreciation and uniqueness in the 1930s.

In her dissertation Raija Talvio examined the circumstances and values directing screenwriting of Finnish film in the early years of sound film.  Filmikirjailijat – elokuvakäsikirjoittaminen Suomessa 1931–1941 (Film writers – Screenwriting in Finland 1931–1941) sheds light to the circumstances in which the profession of Finnish screenwriters began to form. 

There was an intense debate about the quality and direction of Finnish film in its early decades, and the expectations were partly very contradicting.

'The producers wanted to raise the appreciation of film and looked for topics in national works such as Kalevala and Aleksis Kivi's works. Appreciation and quality were also sought by recruiting famous writers as screenwriters. For example, Kulkurin valssi (Wanderer's waltz) was written by Mika Waltari,' explains Talvio.   

From the opposing point of view, regard for film's uniqueness as an art form was the priority. Film was supposed to create its topics itself. It was thought that being a talented writer was not enough to act as a screenwriter but that a cinematic sense, or an 'instinct for film' was also required.

Written by a scenarist

When in 1932 only two films were made in Finland, by the end of the decade more than twenty films premiered every year. The number is equal to the number of feature-length drama films made currently.

In 1941, Suomi-Filmi and Suomen Filmiteollisuus both employed one full-time scenarist, who wrote and made adaptations. In addition to them, there were writers or writer-directors, who wrote screenplays alongside their other activities.

Screenplay has already been taught at the Aalto University Department of Film and Television for 20 years. The field can also be studied in other education institutions. How much has the profession of screenwriters changed in 80 years?

'Today's screenwriters work in the middle of conflicting expectations and impressions in much the same way. A screenwriters is expected to be an independent, free artist at one time, and an adapting member of the production team in film industry at other times; a poet or a product developer depending on the situation.'

Defence of doctoral dissertation

Raija Talvio's dissertation Filmikirjailijat – elokuvakäsikirjoittaminen Suomessa 1931–1941 (Film writers – Screenwriting in Finland 1931–1941) will be examined at the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture on Friday, 13 November 2015 at 12.00 at Sampo Hall, Hämeentie 135 C, Helsinki. Riina Hyytiä, DA (Art and Design), will act as the opponent.

Orders for the dissertation can be placed with the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture’s online bookshop: shop.aalto.fi. Inquiries: [email protected], tel. +358 50 313 7086.

Further information:

Raija Talvio

[email protected]

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