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Time of Roses, A

Entry updated 2 February 2022. Tagged: Film.

Finnish film (1969; original title Ruusujen Aika). Filminor. Directed by Risto Jarva. Written by Risto Jarva, Peter von Bagh and Jarko Paakasvirra. Cast includes Tarja Markus, Arto Tuominen, Ritva Vepsä. 111 minutes. Black and white. 

Helsinki, Finland, in the year 2012 is a prosperous, peaceful society ruled by a meritocracy of technicians. The somewhat smug researcher Raimo (Tuominen) embarks upon a project to compare his time with that of his ancestors, by making a drama-documentary about the life of a figure from the past. He settles upon the life of Saara Turunen (Vepsä), an uneducated saleswoman in the chemicals industry and part-time erotic model, who met with a tragic end in 1976. His mistress and collaborator Anu (Markus) alerts him to the existence of Kisse (also Vepsä), a contemporary woman who bears a striking resemblance to the historical Saara, and who is persuaded to take on her role in the film.

Things, however, are not as they seem. When workers go on strike at the nuclear power plant, Raimo refuses to regard their grievances as anything but an outmoded mindset, discarding the possibility that his supposed Utopia has any flaws. Kisse, meanwhile, becomes increasingly attached to the character that she plays, sifting through the extant materials of Saara's life to uncover a woman exploited and belittled by the men in her life. She realizes that Saara not only sought to acquire money for an abortion, but did so by soliciting multiple men. As the media suppress coverage of the strike, and the labour leader is assassinated while trying to call for better democracy, Kisse dies in a filming accident while attempting to portray the death of the historical Saara.

With a clear debt to Michael Young's The Rise of the Meritocracy 1870-2033: An Essay on Education and Equality (1958), which was translated into Finnish in 1967, and recalling Alphaville (1965) in its use of found architecture and the quotidian present to represent a notional future, Risto Jarva's Dystopian film was widely covered in the Finnish media, but failed to attract more than 30,000 ticket buyers to the cinemas. With a tone and content that often recalls Nigel Kneale's The Year of the Sex Olympics (1968) it muses upon historical conflicts between the sexes while happily replaying them (see Gender). Even contemporary mainstream critics swiftly observed that it was a film more concerned with the political issues of its own time than likely problems of the future. There is, however, something noble in its focus on the hero's delusion – Raimo is sure he is living in a Utopia, despite mounting evidence to the contrary. [JonC]

see also: The Flipside of Dominick Hide; Fahrenheit 451; Women in SF.

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