"Tears of April" is an austere, well-acted period costumer.

Finnish helmer Aku Louhimies (“Frozen Land”) trades the mean streets of contempo Helsinki for the barren countryside during the Finnish Civil War in “Tears of April,” but masculinity and the gray area between right and wrong remain his topics of choice. This austere, well-acted period costumer is the second adaptation of a Leena Lander novel after Dome Karukoski’s “Home of the Dark Butterflies,” and again something of the original’s lure seems lost in translation. Still, fests have already discovered this highbrow item, and ancillary sales should be anything but lachrymose.

In early 1918, the Senate-supported “Whites” fight the Russia-backed “Reds” for supremacy. Idealistic White Aaro (Samuli Vauramo) escorts his feral femme POW (Pihla Viitala) to judge Hallenberg (Eero Aho), who, he hopes, will treat her fairly. But Aaro didn’t count on the war having warped Hallenberg’s sense of justice, or the fact Hallenberg might be sexually interested in him, as he is in his beautiful (but largely mute) prisoner. Despite the many outdoor locations, expertly captured by d.p. Rane Ronkainen in color-drained widescreen, the narrative plays like a chamber piece. Period details are unobtrusively evoked on the pic’s small budget.

Tears of April

Finland

Production

An FS Film release of a Helsinki filmi presentation and production, in association with Two Thirty Five, Mogador Film. (International sales: Wide Managament, Paris.) Produced by Aleksi Bardy. Executive producers, Olli Haikka, Riina Hyytia. Co-producers, Nicholas Moutselos, Christoph Thoke, Axel Moebius, Aku Louhimies. Directed by Aku Louhimies. Screenplay, Jari Olavi Rantala, based on the novel by Leena Lander.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Rane Ronkainen; editor, Ben Mercer; music, Pessi Levanto; production designer, Markku Patila; costume designer, Tiina Kaukanen. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 16, 2009. (Also in Haugesund, Goteborg, Hong Kong film festivals.) Original title: Kasky. Finnish, Russian, German dialogue. Running time: 110 MIN.

With

Pihla Viitala, Samuli Vauramo, Eero Aho, Eemeli Louhimies, Miina Maasola, Riina Maidre.

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