In 2017, it’s more important than ever to have LGBT+ representation in cinema. Films like Moonlight, Carol, and Call Me By Your Name have blown audiences away in the last few years, and that’s not including a whole host of flicks dedicated to the subject. But it’s important to remember that it’s also prevalent in world cinema. Tom of Finland is a great example.
Tom of Finland is the story of Touko Laaksonen, a decorated officer, who returns home after a harrowing and heroic experience serving his country in World War II, but life in Finland during peacetime proves equally distressing. He finds peace-time Helsinki rampant with persecution of the homosexual men around him, even being pressured to marry women and have children. Touko finds refuge in his liberating art, specialising in homoerotic drawings of muscular men, free of inhibitions. His work – made famous by his signature ‘Tom of Finland’ – became the emblem of a generation of men and fanned the flames of a gay revolution.
Tom of Finland is an interesting and powerful film; it’s a tender film that explores it’s themes well and has a lot to offer to those seeking representation of these topics. Admittedly, it’s very slow in the first hour, and that might have been intentional but ultimately is a little frustrating. It takes focusing on the excellent components of the film to not worry about the pacing, even if it is purposely. Beyond that, there’s no real issues with the film. The performances are excellent, especially that of Pekka Strang as the titular character. It’s a soft performance, a quiet one almost that’s loud when it matters. It’s subtle, uncomfortable when necessary, and powerful all throughout. The character Tom is left traumatised by the events of the war, and it’s an always present pain that Stang conveys beautifully. His chemistry with the other cast members, regardless of the emotions is terrific too. He has a natural talent to bounce off his co-stars in the most appropriate way.
Perhaps the most stunning part of this film is the cinematography; everything is so enigmatically shot, from something as simple as Touko laying in bed with another man, or something as thrilling as running to kill a Russian soldier. There’s a touch of beauty to everything that takes place, that really adds to the tender and emotional story that takes place. But the cinematography only works so well in partnership with the fantastic use of sound; it’s the presence of silence that speaks volumes in this film, and makes the dialogue driven scenes far more powerful.
It may take a little while to get into, but Tom of Finland is a great piece of world cinema; a fantastic lead performance, enhanced by beautiful film-making in this fascinating and engaging film about an important and influential in LGBT+ history, and an essential view for anyone looking to embrace the culture of this moment.
Tom of Finland is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now!