Home > Reviews > MOTHER OF MINE (ÄIDEISTÄ PARHAIN) – Tuomas Kantelinen


September 30, 2005 Leave a comment Go to comments

motherofmineOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Finland, a country of 5.3 millions people in the extreme north of Europe, doesn’t have the greatest pedigree when it comes to internationally successful cinema. Their most revered artist, Aki Kaurismäki, is virtually unknown outside of art houses, and their most popular success, Renny Harlin, was famously described by Michael Kamen as “a Finnish motorbike rider – not a director. Nice guy, but not in command of that kind of thing” when talking about their collaboration on Die Hard II. Musically, Finland gave the world composers Jean Sibelius and Einojuhani Rautavaara, and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, but have never managed to combine the two arts and provide a world-renowned film music composer. This could all change for Tuomas Kantelinen, however, if Mother of Mine is successful.

The film, which goes by the title Äideistä Parhain in its native language, is Finland’s official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award in 2005, and if its’ showing at film festivals in Toronto, Palm Springs and other cities is anything to go by, it stands a fair chance of being nominated – or maybe even winning the whole thing. It is directed by Klaus Härö and tells the story of one of the most significant events in Finnish history, but one of the most overlooked aspects of WWII – the forced repatriation of over 70,000 Finnish children, who were sent to Sweden and other countries while their parents fought and died in the war. The story focuses on one nine year old boy named Eero, who finds himself sent against his will to a caring foster family in Sweden, but dreams of returning home. The film stars Maria Lundqvist, Michael Nyqvist, Marjaana Maijala, and Topi Majaniemi as Eero, and features a beautiful, haunting music score by Tuomas Kantelinen.

Kantelinen’s single abortive attempt to crack the Hollywood film music market came in 2004 with the much-delayed and critically maligned Mindhunters, directed by fellow Finn Renny Harlin. Back in Finland, however, Kantelinen is almost revered, with two Jussi Awards (Finnish Oscars) and two further nominations to his name, including a win in 1999 for Rukajärven Tie, one of the most successful Finnish movies in recent years. Mother of Mine is, in many ways, Kantelinen’s Schindler’s List: a serious, dramatic score for a serious, dramatic movie about a significant event in his country’s wartime history. It’s also very, very beautiful.

Written for a large orchestra, with strong emphasis on the string section and solo piano, much of Mother of Mine is written from a standpoint of heartfelt tragedy, emphasising the plight of the children of Finland with overwhelming beauty. In many ways, Kantelinen’s approach is similar to that which Georges Delerue took on scores such as Platoon, or Diên Biên Phu, juxtaposing the heartbreak with lush cues which somehow increase the sense of sorrow inherent in the story. This is not to say that Kantelinen’s score is sorrowful – on the contrary, it is at times quite sweeping and uplifting. But, nevertheless, there remains a profound seriousness to the score which makes it a tremendously engaging and involving listening experience.

The main theme – “Mother’s Theme” – is a melancholy, bittersweet piece for what sounds like 5,000 violins which, as it develops, almost begs you to cry tears of lamentation and sadness. It may be manipulative and unsubtle, but when themes are this good and this memorable, you don’t mind having your emotions massaged in this way. It is the cornerstone of many cues throughout the score, accentuating the loneliness that Eero feels when he is separated from his family and his mother, but also somehow offering a glimmer of hope that, in the end, everything will turn out well, and that one day they will be reunited. Recapitulations, in cues such as “Running Away”, “Leaving Sweden”, “Remembering Home” the achingly beautiful “Farewell”, and the spine-tingling “The Message”, leave listeners with no doubt that Kantelinen’s talent for powerful themes and eliciting the right emotions from his audience could be well used in a more box-office friendly setting, if only he was given the opportunity.

But this is not to say that the score is all about grief and weeping: some warmth does appear in the two playful and child-like “Life is Beautiful” cues, written for a delightful piano and woodwind combination, which show that life on the other side of the Baltic sea is not all misery, while “Tremolo” presents the score’s single piece of action music, a frenetic explosion of thundering string work to accompany Eero’s dramatic attempt to build a raft and swim home. The finale, “Mother of Mine”, is the end credits recapitulation of all the film’s core melodies, performed with all the sweeping power the orchestra can muster, and is a wonderfully stirring and moving coda to what is, unquestionably, one of the finest film scores from a non English-language film in 2005.

Fans of dark, dramatic, emotional orchestral writing would do well to hunt down Mother of Mine. It has been released in Finland on the Miracle Records label, and is available to purchase online from CD Baby at this link, but as far as I know is not yet available in regular stores in the rest of Europe, or North America. Nevertheless, I unreservedly recommend it to all, and I sincerely hope the film attracts enough international attention to allow Kantelinen to be given some high-profile, high quality assignments, on films which will bring his abundant talent to the forefront in the minds of the film music world.

Rating: ****

Track Listing:

  • Train Trip (2:09)
  • Mother’s Theme (0:59)
  • Running Away (3:02)
  • Leaving Sweden (3:15)
  • Life is Beautiful (0:51)
  • Forgiveness (2:04)
  • Farewell (0:47)
  • Two Mothers (1:40)
  • Remembering Home (1:26)
  • Goodnight Son (0:44)
  • Alone (1:51)
  • Night Time (0:52)
  • Tremolo (0:57)
  • Little Sorrow (0:55)
  • Longing (1:12)
  • Surrendering (2:16)
  • Secret (0:47)
  • Storm (2:12)
  • Life is Beautiful II (0:45)
  • Memory (1:53)
  • The Message (2:35)
  • Mother of Mine (5:01)

Running Time: 38 minutes 23 seconds

Miracle Records MIR-101 (2005)

Music composed by Tuomas Kantelinen. Conducted by Matt Dunkley. Orchestrated by Matt Dunkley and Tuomas Kantelinen. Album produced by Tuomas Kantelinen.

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