Television review Virpi Suutari’s acclaimed and visually impressive Aalto documentary reproduces a familiar genius myth

The documentary tells of contradictory aspects about Alvar Aalto’s personality, but there is no reason to criticize the architecture. Aino Aalto’s career and significance remain a sideline.

In Finland far too few cultural documentaries are made. I am thinking in particular of the high-quality portraits that Yle’s Teema channel presents at least every week. Most often they are either French, German or British.

Virpi Suutarin Wavedocumentary makes a Finnish contribution to this offer, and what would be a more natural object than an architect Alvar Aalto, which also enjoys a solid reputation internationally.

Suutari’s documentary represents, on the one hand, a very traditional documentary genre, and, on the other hand, it seems new in Finnish. One can only hope that this will open up a boom in cultural documentaries for us, as many stories are untold.

This week it was reported that a textile artist Maija Isolasta is a movie in progress.

Alvar Aallon however, a giant like that also has its dangers. Already in his lifetime, he overshadowed other Finnish architects, with the result that the history of the field is still almost exclusively personified by him and Eliel Saarinen.

The documentary tells of contradictory aspects of Aalto’s personality, but there is no reason to criticize the architecture. Except in the speeches of construction workers when they complain about the unnecessary sophistication of Kela’s main building and Finlandia House. Archival excerpts are great finds.

Wave is a visually impressive film – like a meditative picture essay, and Aalto’s architecture definitely deserves to be presented in just this way: in different seasons, from an angle, far and near, deserted and in the hustle and bustle of people, Sanna Salmenkallion accompanied by music.

However, the narrative structure of the document is a bit confusing, and at least it is not helped by the fact that there are several experts as narrators, whose names only appear in the final texts.

Aino Aallon the role is disruptive, even intentionally. The beginning promises that the subject is a relationship between two designers, but even in the first few minutes the basic setup is made clear: the voice of a male expert declares Alvar Aalto a genius, the female voice gently resembles Aino but places him in a private, intimate sphere.

Aino is a balancing force that matters only in relation to the tempo Alvar. His own work, especially under Artek’s leadership, is certainly going through, but it remains a short sideline.

In many In the cultural documents of the theme, the male genius lives and works miraculously well, so Suutarinki’s film can be said to represent a familiar approach.

Aalto, Theme at 9 pm and Yle Areena. (K7)

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