Director: Jorn Donner
84min | Biopic Imagination | Finland
Jorn is the only Finn to win an Oscar, for Fanny and Alexander, a story about two siblings in 1900s Sweden., directed by Ingmar Bergman. ARMI ALIVE is a documentary that follows the stage production of Armi Ratia, the elegant Finnish textile entrepreneur behind the iconic Marimekko brand.
Ratia was born in 1912 and the focus here in on Armi’s life in her late thirties and forties where she sets up and grows the fashion business to become at international design phenomenon during the 195os and 60s. Painting a picture of a stylish and driven creative force who was emotionally wrapped up in her work and brand, viscerally connected to her family and children but also highly romantic as shown through his choice of “ne me quitte pas” in the soundtrack. And this side of her personality erupts when she falls in love with an Englishman
Donner creates a very sophisticated visual aesthetic here which does its stylish subject justice and his ‘play within a play’ idea works very well not only giving Marimekko a feeling of continuity which is a fitting tribute to its continued success as a brand for the past fifty years, but also acts as a construct to allow the leading lady (called Maria in the play) a way of objectively trying to uncover the enigmatic character of Armi and to the nature of the personality behind the professional face of this private and stoical workaholic. When she is asked what was special about Armi’s life: She declares ‘not much’. Through her life she lost 3 brothers during the war, twin children, struggled against her husband’s family and the banks. Minna Haapkyla is superb in the role of Maria who she plays as a strong, elegant yet vulnerable and remarkable woman.
What emerges is a woman who is as complex, enduring and strongly sophisticated as her brand which she describes as epitomising a woman who is: free, natural and international. “Uniforms for the intellectual”. Dorner continually is not judgemental about Armi nor does he force her story down our necks but gives his audience a great to reflect on and in some ways Marimekko can be all things to all people, just as Armi Ratia intended. MT
SCREENING AS PART OF THE NORDIC FILM FESTIVAL | THE FESTIVAL STARTS IN LONDON ON 4 DECEMBER AND GOES NATIONWIDE UNTIL JANUARY 2016 | BRISTOL | GLASGOW | NOTTINGHAM