The Winter War (film)

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The Winter War
Talvisota DVD cover.PNG
The Finnish DVD cover
Directed by Pekka Parikka
Produced by Marko Röhr
Written by Pekka Parikka,
Antti Tuuri
Starring Taneli Mäkelä,
Vesa Vierikko,
Timo Torikka,
Mika Heikki Paavilainen,
Antti Raivio,
Esko Kovero,
Martti Suosalo,
Markku Huhtamo,
Konsta Mäkelä
Distributed by National-Filmi
Release date
  • 30 November 1989 (1989-11-30)
Running time
Original: 199 min
TV series: 265 min
International Cut: 125 min
Country Finland
Language Finnish

The Winter War (original title in Finnish: Talvisota) is a 1989 Finnish war film directed by Pekka Parikka, based on The Winter War, a novel by Antti Tuuri. It tells the story of a Finnish infantry regiment "JR 23", which consists almost solely of men from Southern Ostrobothnia, focusing mainly on a platoon of reservists from Kauhava. The film was released in Finland and Sweden on the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Winter War. The film was selected as the Finnish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 63rd Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.[1]


Talvisota (The Winter War) begins on 13 October 1939, when reservists in the Finnish army were called to active duty. Two farmers, Martti Hakala and his younger brother Paavo, join other men from the municipality of Kauhava in a fictional half-platoon under the command of second lieutenant Jussi Kantola. After mustering at the local school, the men ride the train to Seinäjoki to join the rest of the Finnish Army’s 23rd Regiment, under the command of lieutenant-colonel Matti Laurila. After some practice, the regiment goes to the Karelian Isthmus, where Kantola’s men help civilians in the potential war zone evacuate their village.

After marching to the Taipale River, Kantola’s men help in building defenses in preparation for the anticipated Soviet attack. On 6 December the Battle of Taipale begins and rages for three weeks. Several times the Russians get into the Finnish trenches, but the Finns always push them back. On 27 December the Russians halt their attack on the Taipale front and Kantola’s men go to Yläjärvi for rest and recuperation. Martti manages to get home leave.

When Martti returns from home, the unit goes to Vuosalmi on the Vuoksi River near the village of Äyräpää. There the men fend off Russian human-wave attacks. The film shows the ill-fated attack by the Men of Nurmo on 5 March. The fighting stops at eleven o’clock in the morning of 13 March 1940, when the armistice takes effect.

In overall plan Talvisota is a standard war movie. It spends an hour acquainting the audience with about a dozen men and their endearing quirks. Then it kills the men off, one by one, leaving only a few survivors at the end.

Cast of Leading Characters[edit]

  • Taneli Mäkelä - private Martti Hakala: A farmer and a competent soldier. While the regiment is waiting near Taipale he plows the fields of a farmer who has gone to Rautu to build fortifications.
  • Vesa Vierikko - 2nd Lieutenant Jussi Kantola: Martti’s immediate superior. He puts Paavo into Martti’s squad at Martti’s request.
  • Timo Torikka - private Pentti Saari: He is usually eating something or playing his mandolin. He often complains about the lack of food.
  • Heikki Paavilainen - private Vilho Erkkilä: Looking like a college student, he quotes patriotic poetry on the train. He is Martti and Paavo’s half brother.
  • Antti Raivio - corporal Erkki Somppi: The shortest man and leader of the 1st squad in Kantola’s half-platoon, he first appears issuing belts and cockades to the men at Kauhava School.
  • Esko Kovero - medical corporal Juho “Jussi” Pernaa: The half-platoon’s medic.
  • Martti Suosalo - private Arvi Huhtala: A skirt-chaser who smokes cigarettes with built-in holders and combs his hair when he’s nervous.
  • Markku Huhtamo - private Aatos Laitila: An older and pious man, he finds humor in taking Soviet propaganda leaflets for “a little wipe”.
  • Matti Onnismaa - corporal Veikko Korpela: A skilled machine-gunner, he gets blasted by a flamethrower tank, but survives, only mildly singed.
  • Konsta Mäkelä - private Paavo Hakala: Martti’s younger brother.
  • Tomi Salmela - private Matti Ylinen: Anna Ylinen’s older brother. On the train he drinks liquor from a bottle Pentti claims is his. He carries a blue wind-up clock, whose ticking seems to calm his nerves.
  • Samuli Edelmann - private Mauri Haapaluoma: A replacement who is so unprepared that Aatos gives him his gloves.
  • Vesa Mäkelä - lieutenant Yrjö Haavisto: He is aide-de-camp to Col. Laurila.
  • Aarno Sulkanen - captain Kaarlo Sihvo: He comes to the dugout to chew Kantola out when Russians take an unattended bunker.
  • Kari Kihlström - lieutenant Jorma Potila: He stands with Colonel Laurila as Laurila inspires the troops.
  • Esko Salminen - lieutenant-colonel Matti Laurila: Commanding officer of the 23rd Regiment of the Finnish Army.
  • Ari-Kyösti Seppo - private Ahti Saari: Pentti Saari’s younger brother. He is naive and inexperienced, so the act of killing Russians distresses him.
  • Kari Sorvali - sergeant-major Hannu Jutila: As a logistics officer, his first act is to find a field kitchen that has gone missing.
  • Esko Nikkari - private Yrjö “Ylli” Alanen: An older, experienced soldier who is almost always whittling a piece of wood. His participation in Finland’s Civil War of 1918 gives him an insouciance regarding combat.
  • Ville Virtanen - 2nd lieutenant Jaakko Rajala: An arrogant officer who bears a grudge against Martti for a minor act of insubordination. He becomes more humble as he witnesses the true nature of war.
  • Pirkko Hämäläinen - Marjatta Hakala: Martti’s wife.
  • Leena Suomu - Liisa Hakala: Martti and Paavo’s mother. She has asked Martti to watch over Paavo.
  • Tarja Heinula - Anna Ylinen: Paavo’s fiancé and Matti Ylinen’s sister.


Production notes[edit]

Military Hardware[edit]

The film depicts a wide array of genuine wartime vehicles and artillery; and when these were not available, replicas were used:

  • T-26; Light infantry tank (Soviet)
  • Tupolev SB; Twin-engine fast bomber (Soviet)
  • Polikarpov I-16; Single engine, single seat fighter used for strafing runs (Soviet)
  • PstK/36; 37-mm anti-tank gun (Finnish)

Animated special effects were used to simulate tracer projectiles.


In addition to the main title and the incidental music, five pieces play an important role in the film:

  • Vilppulan urhojen muistolle is the march sung by Finnish troops as the 23rd Regiment marches out of Seinäjoki. You can hear it sung on YouTube.
  • Oi Emma is a traditional Finnish waltz, in which the singer laments the behavior of a perfidious woman. It’s the first tune that Pentti Saari plays on his mandolin. You can hear it sung by Tapio Rautavaara on

YouTube. You can also hear an alternative version with the lyrics displayed on YouTube.

  • Ah Jeesus Kristus armahda is the hymn played in Kauhava cathedral at the funeral in the middle of the movie. It’s Virsi 587 in the official 1938 hymnbook (Virsikirja) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. The scene from the movie may be seen on YouTube. The entire hymn may be heard on YouTube.
  • Enkeli taivaan is the Christmas hymn sung by the men. It’s melody comes from Martin Luther’s Ein Feste Berg ist Unser Gott (A Mighty Fortress is our God). You can hear it sung by a children’s choir on YouTube. This is Virsi 21 in the official 1938 hymnbook (Virsikirja) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.
  • Ich spür in mir (I feel in me) is from the 1935 movie Mazurka (a German movie about a singer put on trial for murdering a predatory musician). Pentti plays it on his mandolin and the soldiers whistle it to express their displeasure at a situation that an officer has created. You can hear this song on YouTube YouTube.



Pekka Parikka was nominated for the Golden Bear at the 40th Berlin International Film Festival in 1990.[4]

At the Jussi Awards (Finland's premier film awards) the same year, Talvisota received six awards:

  • Best Actor: Taneli Mäkelä
  • Best Co-ordinator: Raimo Mikkola
  • Best Direction: Pekka Parikka
  • Best Music: Juha Tikka
  • Best Sound Recording: Paul Jyrälä and team
  • Best Supporting Actor: Vesa Vierikko

Taneli Mäkelä also won Best Actor, for his role in the film, at the Rouen Nordic Film Festival.[5]

TV series[edit]

An extended TV version was also made, consisting of five episodes, each with a running time of over 50 minutes. The series has been aired four times on Finnish TV (in 1991, 1999, 2009 and 2015).

Home media[edit]

The abridged international cut was released on DVD by Belle & Blade Studios. The DVD includes hard-coded English subtitles. In addition to missing plot lines, several reviewers of the DVD complained about bad picture quality.

The original theatrical version was released on DVD by Finnkino in 2001. The DVD includes English and Swedish subtitles.

The original theatrical version was released on DVD by Atlantic Film in 2008. The DVD includes Danish, Norwegian and Swedish subtitles.

The original theatrical version was released on two DVDs by ICD Studio in 2009. The DVD includes English and Korean subtitles.

The extended TV version was released on two DVDs by Finnkino in 2010. This release doesn't have any subtitles and it is only available in Finland.

The international cut was released on DVD by Scanbox Entertainment in 2011. The DVD includes English subtitles.

The original theatrical version and international cut were released on Blu-ray by Pandastorm Pictures on 6 November 2015. The Blu-ray includes English and German subtitles. These versions were digitally restored in Finland by National Audiovisual Institute.

The original theatrical version was released on Blu-ray by VLMedia on 18 March 2016. The Blu-ray includes English and Swedish subtitles. This version was digitally restored in Finland by National Audiovisual Institute.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
  2. ^ Talvisota ( Elonet. Viitattu 2009 Apr 18.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Berlinale: 1990 Programme". Retrieved 2011-03-20. 
  5. ^ "Palmares since 1988". Retrieved 2013-03-28. 

External links[edit]