Goteborg: ‘The Eternal Road’ With ‘Westworld’s’ Sidse Babett Knudsen Unveiled at Nordic Film Market

Portrait of a 1930s black-and-white world is ‘contemporary story-telling, director says

The Eternal Road
Photo: Rauno Ronkainen

GOTEBORG, Sweden — Finnish director Antti-Jussi Annila has presented his third feature “The Eternal Road,” with Sidse Babett Knudsen, star of ‘Westworld’ and ‘Borgen,’ as a work in progress – after the martial arts adventure “Jade Warrior” (2006), the first Finnish feature to be theatrically released in China, and the psychological horror film “Sauna” (2008), which was nominated for the Nordic Council Film Prize.

The Eternal Road was the route Finnish right-wing extremists used in the 1930s’ growing political unrest, when they forcible transported communists or people they believed to be communists to and across the Soviet border.

Scripted by Annila, from Finnish author Antti Tuuri’s bestselling 2011 novel, it follows Jussi Ketola, who had just returned to Finland after working in America. During a summer night he is abducted by nationalist thugs, who originally wanted to shoot him, but he was beaten and forced to walk The Eternal Road to the Soviet Union, where he starts working on a collective farm.

With Stalin’s purges, his life is turned into hell. Kettle would rather take a bullet in his head than live, but he is not allowed to die. Still, hope dies last. With a star Nordic star headed by Finnish actor Tommi Korpela, soon to be seen in Kaurismaki’s “The Other Side of Hope,” and Denmark’s Sidse Babett Knudsen, the film will be launched on September 2017 as part of Finland 100 – the celebration of Finnish independence from Russia in 1917.

”It is about time we get to honor the memory of these people who followed their idealism to a strange country and died there, betrayed and forgotten. said Finnish producer Ilkka Matila, of Helsinki’s MRP Matila Röhr Productions, which is producing the project with Sweden’s Martin Person, of Person Anagram, and Estonia’s Kristian Taska, of Taska Film.

Matila added: “Silenced stories are an important part of the identity of all nations. The time always comes when they have to be told because it helps us to understand ourselves and our future.”

Nordisk Film Finland will handle local distribution.

“When I was asked to direct this film, I said I will not have anything new or bright to contribute about communism and capitalism or Soviet Union politics – everything that needs to be said has already been said. But I could relate to this man and his survival story,” Annila explained.

As the son of a history teacher, Annila said I had heard something about American-Finnish emigrants going to the Soviet Union. When he started to do his own research, he realised it was in a way an untold story – not much has been written about it.

Annual commented: “Stalin had invited the workers of the world to come and build up this new Paradise on Earth, but the world changed, paranoia grew, suddenly they were not welcome any more. About 10,000 people had come from the U.S., they had U.S. passports, but now the U.S. turned their backs on them – they were not allowed to return, and thousands were killed.”

“Jussi Ketola, who had returned from the U.S. during the Depression, lived in a black-and-white world, where people were choosing sides. This is starting again, and it makes me nervous,” Annila said.

“He was neither a communist nor a capitalist, but right in the middle – he did not care about red or white politics, but about the human being, about family. We usually learn about history from the winners, this is different – “The Eternal Road” is actually a quite horrible epic, the scenes in The Soviet Union we have been filming (in Tallinn, Estonia) are very realistic, this is contemporary history-telling,” he concluded.