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The Minister of State

This infectiously exuberant saga, apparently based on a true incident, is set in a part of Lapland where Finland and Sweden share a border. Unpretentious and briskly handled by writer-producer-director Paul-Anders Simma, this is a modest charmer that could find fest bookings and specialized tube slottings. With a plot not dissimilar to that of the Gogol story "The Inspector General," (filmed as a Danny Kaye vehicle), "The Minister of State" revolves around a misunderstanding that propels a man on the run into a position of power in a small Lapp community. Pic is enjoyable largely because director Simma treats the story as a legend. An old man in the present relates the saga to his wide-eyed grandson, and within the story itself a folk singer periodically warbles a musical recounting of the events.

With:
Seppo Ravmark ..... Erik Kiviniemi Antti Neia ..... Bjorn Sundquist Marit Jaha ..... Sara Margrethe Oskal Otto Swinskjold ..... Kari-Pekka Toivonen Neia's Wife ..... Anita Suikkari

It’s 1945, and the north of Europe is in chaos as Finland turns against its former ally Germany and the Russians sweep through the country. Two Finnish soldiers, fleeing from the Germans, are separated by an explosion; Seppo (Erik Kiviniemi) thinks his buddy is dead. He winds up exhausted on the outskirts of a small Lapp community called Sagojokk, where just about everything is run by a

tough, no-nonsense bully, Neia (Bjorn Sundquist). The locals mistake Seppo for a government minister, sent from Helsinki to supervise postwar reconstruction and land reform — and he doesn’t disabuse them, happy to be treated with respect and to receive the attentions of pretty Marit (Sara Margrethe Oskal), Neia’s sister.

Neia and his cronies become increasingly disturbed as the “minister” sets about distributing land to the peasants, pocketing a “registration fee” for himself, and starting construction of a road. Neia decides to have the stranger

killed, but his efforts fail, and, eventually, he turns quisling and brings German soldiers into the village to sort things out. Matters are complicated further by the arrival of Seppo’s missing buddy, who wants to be a part of the

scam.

Besides its colorful characters, comedy and music, pic includes a few suspenseful sequences — in particular, one in which Seppo and Marit, in a small boat, are pursued by a pair of Neia’s henchmen down a fast-flowing river toward a waterfall.

The lanky Kiviniemi is an engaging hero, Oskal a fresh-faced heroine and Sundquist a ripe villain. Visually, the film is extremely handsome.

The Minister of State

Finnish - Swedish - Norwegian

Production: A Kinotuotanto Oy (Helsinki)/ Moviemakers (Stockholm)/Northern Lights (Oslo) co-production, with the support of Swedish Television 2, Filmteknik, Filmpool, Swedish Film Institute, Finnish Film Foundation, Nordic Film and TV Fund, Eurimages. (International sales: Kinoproduction Ltd., Helsinki.) Produced, directed, written by Paul-Anders Simma.

Crew: Camera (color), Hans Welin; music, Wimme Saari, Hedningarna; production design, Risto Karhula; costumes, Tiina Kaukanen; sound (Dolby SR), Johan Hake. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (market), Feb. 16, 1997. Running time: 83 MIN. (Sami, Finnish and Swedish dialogue)

Cast: Seppo Ravmark ..... Erik Kiviniemi Antti Neia ..... Bjorn Sundquist Marit Jaha ..... Sara Margrethe Oskal Otto Swinskjold ..... Kari-Pekka Toivonen Neia's Wife ..... Anita Suikkari

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