For Finnish cultural memory, remembering the 1970s entails engaging with the complex effects of the Cold War, most painfully, the complicated relationship of Finland with Soviet Union: The Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance (1948–1992) and the political leverage Soviet Union de facto gained in the internal affairs of Finland, formally a Western democracy. Not only did this inform political structures, media and the public sphere at large, but also the new social and political movements and, most spectacularly, the post-1968 leftist radicalism that in Finland epitomized in the so called Taistoism: an orthodox pro-Soviet grouping and an internal opposition within Eurocommunist Finnish Communist Movement.
In this paper, I discuss Finnish documentaries that address the 1970s communist and socialist activism, focusing on their aesthetic and political strategies in articulating cultural memory, coming to terms with time as disjunctive and, hence, resisting what has been termed left melancholy. Looking at a subjective documentary (Uncle Lenin lives in Russia/Lenin-setä asuu Venäjällä by Kanerva Cederström 1987), an autoethnography (Once upon a time there was a utopia/Olipa kerran Utopia by Lasse Naukkarinen 2004), a musical documentary Revolution (Kenen joukoissa seisot by Jouko Aaltonen, 2006) and a historical documentary (Oh dear Finland/Oi kallis Suomenmaa by Peter von Bagh 1997) I investigate how they negotiate ideological, political and moral controversy by staging affective history. That is, how they, employing archival aesthetics and popular political songs of the 1970s, invoke a past structure of feeling or what Jacques Rancière calls “the distribution of the sensible”, the common sense. At the same time, however, this reframing of the past in new “documentary fiction” (Rancière) is also a political act and, potentially, an act of dissensus that introduces “a conflict between sensory presentation and a way of making sense of it”. Drawing from Rancière’s notions, I discuss the documentaries as attempts to invent new subjects and speaking positions instead of remaining silent and marginalized by political melancholia.
With this paper, I wish to make a contribution to the field of studies on post-communism, documentary studies as well as to studies of cultural memory and of cinema as politics.
Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference, Seattle (USA), March 19–23, 2014