A moody, well-acted first feature, set during the 1918 civil war that followed Finland’s declaration of independence from Russia, “The Redemption” is a tense and dour drama with a few unexpected twists that pack a punch. Compact pic is fest fare.
A bone-weary Lutheran priest in a small village has been tending his motley parish as best he can, faced with scarce supplies and scarcer enthusiasm for the Lord’s teachings. Convinced he’s a sinner whose professorial efforts are wasted on the local schoolchildren, the priest is put in charge of a prisoner – a young soldier fighting for the Reds.
The priest’s brother, to whom he writes regularly to detail his struggles and doubts, is an officer in the soon-to-arrive White Army. As the two factions approach the conflicted priest’s remote corner of eastern Finland, he makes a move with double-edged consequences.
Lensing displays a good sense for the protagonist’s stern facade and inner turmoil as he deals with disbelievers, sinister men on horseback and the incorrigible village idiot. The spare but evocative art direction captures a muddy early spring in a cold climate, and the score is suitably eerie, with emphasis on strings.