The young Pvt. Aaro Harjula (Samuli Vauramo), who recently returned from Germany, joins the non-socialist Whites as they win the war. But soon after joining he becomes shocked by the savage and ruthless revenge led by the Whites against the Reds.
He witnesses a group of female Red soldiers being gang-raped and executed. When one of the women, Miina Malin (Pihla Viitala), survives and tries to escape, the conscientious Harjula decides to help the desperate and angry young woman get to the nearest garrison for a trial. The arduous journey to the court leads to an unexpected bond between the two war-affected people. When they finally get to the garrison, events take a twist as Judge Emil Hallenberg (Eero Aho) decides that Malin is not innocent. Harjula is placed in a difficult position, not knowing if he should follow the rules or listen to his heart and try to save Malin. He eventually decides that he’ll do whatever it takes to save her.
Directed by Aku Louhimies, “Tears of April” is a movie about the possibility of love between members of enemy forces at a time of barbaric cruelty. While it is a dramatic wartime love affair, the film focuses more on the relationship between the two main characters than on the facts of the war. It is based on the popular novel by Leena Lander titled “Käsky” but is quite different in terms of the plot and tone.
Speaking to Today’s Zaman, Louhimies said he knew about the book even before it was published and had immediately started making plans to turn it into a movie. “I thought it was an important story to tell. It is not only a reflection of history but also a controversial story dealing with questions of love,” he said.
The film is dramatic and intense in its delivery, with scenes expertly portraying the ghastly horrors of war. But it manages to eloquently reflect feelings of love, compassion and attraction as well. While Louhimies says he does not believe movies should have direct messages but rather an idea or theme which the audience can contemplate and use to re-evaluate its own thoughts and ideas, he notes that the movie was intended to focus more on the relationship between Harjula and Malin than on the war between the Reds and the Whites.
The film’s scenes and depictions of characters are true to real life, and the actors’ compelling performances make the audience feel what they are feeling, keeping them engaged in the film until the very end. “Of course a film is an illusion, but more often than not I like to be realistic. I like to insert some truth into it,” Louhimies said, noting that he tries to convey a level of realism with the actors and surroundings to make it an intimate experience for the viewers as well.
“Tears of April” is one of Louhimies’ best films. It won the Eurimages Award at the Seville film festival and the Best Male Actor in a Leading Role Award (Eero Aho) at the Marrakech International Film Festival. Louhimies is currently working on a few other projects, including a live-action children’s movie. He said his goal is to continue making “good, meaningful movies” that can reach a wide international audience.
Louhimies was in Ankara for the 21st International Ankara Film Festival. His film “Tears of April” was screened at the Batı Theater under the festival’s “From All Over the World” section. “I was very surprised my movie was chosen to be part of the festival. I was very happy to be here,” he said.