Mixing live action, newsreels and interviews, “Beyond Enemy Lines” tells the story of a company of Swedish-speaking soldiers during the fiercely contested 1941-44 Finnish war against the Soviet Union that ended in a Soviet victory. Its subject, and strongly patriotic tone, has made the film a hit in Finland, where it opened early March, but that success is unlikely to be repeated anyplace else.
The war followed a previous one between Finland and the Soviet Union that ended in March 1940, with the Finnish army exhausted but not defeated. As Finland subsequently drew closer to Germany, the Soviet Union attacked again, in June ’40. In Sweden, there was a strong popular movement to join Finland’s fight; when the government decided against it, hundreds of Swedish volunteers traveled to Finland to fight, often in regiments with soldiers from Swedish-speaking parts of Finland.
“Beyond Enemy Lines” tells the story of one such regiment, showing everyday life in the trenches, danger from Russian snipers and frequent attempts to penetrate beyond enemy lines. Film is based on the memories of one soldier, Harry Jarv, who led several successful missions.
Jarv survived the war and is still alive, in Stockholm. Veteran director Ake Lindman interviewed him and one of his friends, and on a couple of occasions cuts away from the action to show excerpts from the interview. Instead of lending more credibility, and a documentary feel to the pic, this simply disrupts narrative flow and becomes irritating.
Use of B&W newsreel footage is more successful, especially as Lindman and d.p. Pauli Sipilainen have drained some of the color from the live-action sections, thus easing the visual transition to the monochrome material.
The many battle scenes are well-staged and free of excessive gore. However, pic’s unflinching patriotism is hard to take, making it pale beside Rauni Mollberg´s classic movie, “The Unknown Soldier,” which adopted a critical view of authority and patriotism.
Dialogue is a mixture of both Finnish and Swedish, and print caught also had a Swedish main title (“Framom framsta linjen”) alongside the Finnish one.