Sunday, April 29, 2007

Finland, part 7: back to Helsinki

With one last day in Finland, I saved the Ateneum, an amazing museum housing a terrific collection of Finnish art, for my last lingering Finnish cultural experience. What a museum! The collection is organized, not by era or art style, but amazingly, by subject matter. So there is a room of horse artwork from all different eras, with a gorgeous 16th century etching featuring horses in battle right next to a surreal horse piece from 1973, next to a bronze of horses plowing from the early 20th century, next to a photograph of horses in a field from 1992. There is a dog room, a cat room, a bird room, and so on. What an amazing plan! It really keeps you interested as you go through the museum. With over 4300 paintings and more than 750 sculptures, there is a lot to see.
the Ateneum art museum, Helsinki

Unfortunately you can't take pictures at the Ateneum so I did some drawings and paintings.

The cool part that really related to my research was getting to see all of the Gallen-Kallela artwork, much of it studies for Kalevala illustrations, as well as actual paintings. Here are some samples of this work that I got from the Ateneum website (click on the pictures to see larger versions):

The Aino Myth

The Fratricide

Kullervo's curse

Lemminkainen's Mother

Kullervo Rides to War

the first lesson (not from the Kalevala but a nice image that might be mirrored in one of the scenes between Tom and his son Arne)

And here are some of the sketches that I did:

Ankseli Gallen-Kallela: study for 'The Giant Pike' (1904)

Ankseli Gallen-Kallela: study for 'The Defense of the Sampo' for the Finnish Pavilion in Paris, 1899

Emil Cedercreutz: Man Plowing, bronze, 1907

Finland is a magical country. I got everything I wanted and more from the trip. On our last day I was frustrated because I had wanted to get a shot of young Tom standing at a wooden ship's wheel, and even though we'd been to the two Maritime Museums and all over the shipyard areas, we hadn't found one. But on our way to the Ateneum art museum on our last day, we decided to walk past the harbour. And there was the Mary Ann, with a lovely, perfect wooden ship's wheel -- and a website painted on her side!

When we got to the museum I called the number on the website, but the person at the other end didn't speak English, so I went down and asked the very nice coat check man to make the call for me and see if we could get permission to go aboard and get the shot. To make a long story short, permission was granted, so after the museum we went back to the hostel and got the camera and Don's costume, and as the rain really started to fall, I got my grey skies over young Tom at the wheel, just as I had imagined the shot.

just like the old photos at the Maritime museums!

Helsinki is of course lovely. Here is just a quick sample of what the city looks like:
train station in the center

gorgeous cathedral

statues depicting scenes and characters from the Kalevala are everywhere; here is Vainamoinen with the jawbone harp made from the giant pike (and some Finnish pigeons)

The trip has been amazing. I feel much better prepared now to tackle not only the character and essence of Tom Sukanen based on his roots, but also the stylistic and cultural considerations of the Kalevala epic and its representation in the film. In addition I have made many new Finnish friends and people who will be willing to help me with things such as music and soundtrack (such as the contact I have at the Folk Music Department at the Sibelius Academy), as well as questions about the Kalevala, maritime history, visual art, folk lore, culture, and, for the future, Finnish film festivals.

I feel ready to head into production back in Canada.

Incidentally, here's a trick question: was this picture taken in Finland or Saskatchewan???

Until next time... Sisu!

Finland, part 6: Ostrobothnia (Rauma's Maritime Museum)

The Rauma Maritime Museum had different information than the Forum Marinum in Turku, so it was definitely worth visiting. All I drew at this museum was a sextant, which was pretty tough to get right:
There were tons of great old pictures of sailors, crewmen, and even shipbuilders from Tom Sukanen's era:

"Can't we just Photoshop my face onto that picture?" - Don Wood

There were also tons of great old pieces of seagoing and navigational equipment:

This is a cool a model of a ship which was built in the area at the time that Tom was building ships, which is a great example of a steam and sailing ship and which also has the overlapping metal plates on the keel, in this case copper, exactly how Tom finished his own keel on the Sontianen:

This keel is riveted; Tom stitched his keel together with wire.

One of the highlights of this museum was the navigation simulator. This cool set-up took up nearly half of the attic, and not only had a wheel for steering your ship across three large surrounding panels of the New York Harbor and up the Hudson River, but it also had radar which showed where other ships were, as well as a panel for adjusting your speed and power, and a cool digital map which showed where the ship was in relation to its surroundings. The image on the screen rose and fell and rocked back and forth just like in a real ship, so even though Don had a steady hand and we didn't collide with anyone, I was soon seasick.

Apparently the kids always ask how many points you get for ramming into and sinking other boats. It's a sad world...

On the way back, we took a quick side trip to Naantali, where there is another, much smaller wooden town right on the harbour, so we got more shots of young Tom walking from the town down to the water. We also got a couple of shots of older Tom, for when he visits Finland to plan his trip. Here is one of him looking out across the water, thinking about steaming into the harbour.

Unfortunately, unlike the Turku Maritime Museum, the birds at the Rauma Maritime Museum are not as friendly and must be kept behind glass. Probably just as well; this gigantic albatross looks like it could take my head off.

Hello, Mr. Bird.

Until next time... Sisu!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Finland, part 5: Ostrobothnia (Old Rauma)

Don and I rented a little Citroen and drove the 87 kilometers from Turku to Rauma, which turned out to be a great choice. Not only does the bus and train combo take seven hours to get there and cost (roundtrip) as much as renting a car for two days, we also got to pull over and see stuff along the way.

Because we had the car, we got to drive around and see stuff off the beaten path, and I got a chance to shoot some B-roll footage of various Finnish scenes, landscapes, and in this case, a lighthouse. I don't know how much we'll use but it's certainly worth having.

One reason I wanted to go to Rauma is that there is another marine museum there, but the main attraction is the seaside 'Vanha Rauma' (Old Rauma), one of six medieval towns that still exists in Finland. Vanha Rauma contains the largest collection of old wooden houses in all of the Nordic countries. Many of the buildings date back to the 1700's, and some of the architecture is actually from the 1500's. The winding streets are largely cobbled and quite narrow, and although designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, still functions as a town with roughly 37,000 inhabitants. Unlike North America, the old shops are not full of tourist crap and souvenirs as one might expect (Finns are actually pretty inept at tourism, which is nice), but are rather hardware stores, apothecaries, cafes, clothing stores, and other services one might to expect in any small town.

In short, it looks like a movie set after the cast and crew have left.

After we had walked into Vanha Rauma about half a block, Don and I realized we should be shooting, so we went back to the hotel and he got on his 'young Tom' costume and I grabbed the camera and tripod, and we got some shots of young Tom Sukanen on his way somewhere, perhaps to work, through these winding beautiful streets. The slightly drizzly weather was just perfect, too; it looked like we'd hired a water truck to water down the streets and make everything wet.

As was the case with the whole trip, things just seemed to go our way.

The buildings are all beautiful and very unique; I took a lot of pictures of the architectural design. Here's a small sample:

old door lock mechanism

A typical Vanha Rauma street.

This a beautiful medieval-looking canal that runs through Vanha Rauma. We didn't use it for any shots, but it's pretty cool!

Town hall.

We shot all over Vanha Rauma and, again unlike North America, no one asked us what we were doing, where our permit was, or whether we had insurance. They just stopped what they were doing, watched in mild curiosity, and waved politely as we packed up and moved on.

Here is a sketch I did of a street in Vanha Rauma (without a ruler even) while Don and I had a coffee in one of the old cafes:

And here is a quick watercolor sketch of the cellar restaurant where we had amazing salmon soup for supper:

The final leg of the trip is back to Helsinki for a tour of the Ateneum, one of the top art museums in Finland.

Until next time... Sisu!

Finland, part 4: Ostrobothnia (Turku)

Don and I are not quite in Ostrobothnia proper, being too far south in Turku, but we're close to this area, where Tom Sukanen is from. Our trip north to Rauma will be heading into the Ostrobothnian district, where the people are known to be large, proud, tidy, and hardworking, where the men have thick necks and massive builds, the women are strong, and no one says anything twice.

We took a train from Helsinki to Turku, where our primary focus was the Forum Marinum, or Maritime Museum; since Tom was a ship builder in the late 19th century in this area, quite possibly in Turku itself (the largest shipbuilding center in Finland at that time), I wanted to know what kinds of ships were being built, as well as what the overall atmosphere was and how things looked at the time.

After dinner the day we arrived in Turku, we saw a classical guitar concert in the chapel of the Turku cathedral (consecrated in 1300); here is a sketch of that. I really liked the motif inside the cathedral chapel, these climbing vines that twisted up to the peaked ceiling (perhaps it might find its way into one of the designs in the animations in my film):

it wasn't bad but the Italian guitar player really screwed up the second piece he played, which was when I got my sketchbook out. "Do us all a favor, Fabio, and practice that one a little more before you present it." - Don Wood

We couldn't miss the Sibelius museum, a tribute to Finland's most famous composer, whose musical work for the Kalevala is legendary. They wouldn't let us take pictures so I did a couple of sketches of different caricatures of him. They say he had seven creases between his eyebrows, one for each of his seven symphonies. He was the political musical counterpart to the painter Gallen-Kallela; they worked together to use Art to inspire Finland to awaken and fight for her freedom, a movement which ultimately succeeded. The power of Art! It's awesome.

This has been a tremendously useful part of the trip for starting to create an image in my mind of the world Tom lived in and then left behind when he departed for America. I took about 50 shots, if not more, at the Forum Marinum; here is a small sample (sorry, no Photoshop on this computer, so some are dark and/or need cropping):

Cute little model of a ship that looks to be about the scale of Sukanen's ship, the Sontianen

one of an impressive series of funny old sketches of seamen by this one prolific sailor-artist from the 1890's

a model of a ship- in-progress: AWESOME!

Turku shipyard, circa 1890

Turku shipyard, circa 1890

The Forum Marinum has an impressive collection of antique boats that are moored in the river across from the museum, but they aren't open to the public until June. You never know what's possible until you investigate, so I asked the ticket lady if there was any chance at all of our getting on board the big sailing ship and taking a couple of shots for our movie. Within a minute she had called Pauli Kivisto, who as it turns out has a Master's degree in history, and whose thesis was on Finnish maritime history, so he was a wealth of information, plus he seemed to be interested in our project. We got on board the ship and then while Don was getting into his 1890's Finnish seaman's costume, I was wracking my brains for shots that would be quick and yet worth the trouble.

The day was bright and sunny, just as I had pictured these B-roll-type shots of young Tom on the ship, but the boat itself was rock solid still, being a massive ship moored in a quiet canal. I had Don do a little 'sea-legs' action while I 'breathed' the camera with his movements; we'll see when we get it on a big screen whether that worked, or whether my 'breathing' camera was actually 'heaving' in my excitement. Urgh! Afterwards Pauli gave me his email address and said that if I have any questions he'd be happy to answer them if he could. One thing he told me is that the way Tom made his keel, with the overlapping squares of metal, is an old Finnish custom for keeping out the shipworms... so that's cool!

Here's a picture of the ship we were on, the "Suomen Joutsen" ('The Swan of Finland'):

And here is Don on board with Pauli, the really helpful and knowledgeable guy who helped us out and later answered dozens of my stupid questions:

And here is a model of this massive sailing ship in the museum. Pauli told me that the sails weighed over 3 tons, the ropes and wires in the rigging reached a cumulative length of over 30 kilometers, and yet a scanty crew of 25 men operated this cargo ship which was built in 1902.

I did some sketches of ship models and a block and tackle, and as usual I was the only person at the museum for most of the day; Don left earlier and Pauli had to kick me out. I was still sketching while the various sound tracks of creaking rigging, crying gulls, and sea shanties were turned off throughout the museum.

a model of a mid-to-late 19th century steam and sail paddlewheeler

A model of a wooden sailing ship, the Eros, that Tom Sukanen could easily have worked on, as it was built in 1897 near Turku.

an old wooden block and tackle

The best way to end any day is to commune with nature. The seagulls here in Finland are remarkably tame. This one is snagging a bit of reindeer off the tip of my tongue.

"I prefer my reindeer with lingonberries, but I'll take what I can get."

Until next time...Sisu!