International Crime in The Supreme Victory

3/2010

Jaakko Seppälä

Finnish filmmakers had closely followed international tendencies in the 1910s. When Finland became a sovereign state in late 1917 and plunged into the traumatic Civil War of 1918, the cinema consciously adopted a more nationalistic approach. When it comes to the representation of crime, gentleman thieves and detectives disappeared from cinema screen, replaced by knife-slingers, moonshiners and avaricious Sami witches. This new Finnish national cinema, focused on representing the Finnish people and nature, prospered on the home market. The film industry worked hard to raise the quality of its production to a level equalling Sweden and to begin extensive export of its products. Some film prints were exported as far as Japan, but on a large scale these objectives were never reached: Finnish cinema was to remain a local attraction.

In the late 1920s film producers attempted to broaden the concept of the Finnish national cinema by introducing international tendencies. My article discusses the representation of global crime in Carl von Haartman’s spy film The Supreme Victory (Korkein voitto, 1929) in relation both to the preceding traditions of the Finnish national cinema and to imported international, especially German and American, films. The Supreme Victory was one of the films produced in the project of internationalising Finnish cinema in the late 1920s. By that time it had become evident that foreign markets were not interested in the recent trends of the Finnish film industry. The filmmakers, it seems, tried to remedy this by employing international style and subject matter in order to both attract Finnish urban audiences and to break into the global film market.

Methodologically, the article combines a survey of intertextual material related to the subject matter to a close textual analysis of The Supreme Victory. Besides crime themes discussed include bolshevism, nationalism and anti-Semitism.