Alli Haapasalo was still a film student, living in Helsinki, when she first read Anja Shellman’s book Autumn Prince. She knew straight away how much she liked it and considered the possibility of turning it into a film.
Later on, just before graduating and having moved to New York, she decided that time was right to make her first feature film.
Love and Fury, shot and produced in 2015, is the successful response to that realisation. Like the popular German television spy drama series Deutschland 83’, it is also set in the early 1980’s cold war era. Helsinki was similar in that the vibe of the cold war era was there but there was also a sense that changes were about to come. Appropriately, the film’s historical setting and subsequent changes, introducing democracy and freedom, fit the development in this story. However, any the historical similarities and comparisons should end here as Love and Fury contrasts 1996 with 1981 and is reflective, the person who tells this story is in the process of moving on and has had a chance to consider events.
The story’s two main characters are first introduced when Inka (Laura Birn) encounters Juhana (Lauri Tilkanen) in 1996. At that point Juhana is on a psychiatric hospital ward where they greet each other by name and introduction. On the surface Love and Fury may seem simple but as the story unfolds the characters show their true and often extreme range of their complexity. The two young cultural visionaries fall passionately in love with each other and their relationship develops at a fast intense pace. Both aspiring to become established writers, Juhana is a step ahead of Inka, who is yet to become a published author and she looks to Juhana for his approval and support. At first they share a sense they can achieve anything together, towards the end that feeling is replaced by feelings of anger, competition and jealousy.
Thematic contrasts help create consistent storytelling throughout the film. At first, Juhana appears to the strong, forceful and charismatic of the two but the power shifts but the balance shifts as the story unfolds. She is from a working-class background, his roots are middle-class something which he tries to distance himself from. Their strong feelings and passion spiral out of control and they have very different ways of dealing with it. Juhana suffers from hereditary bipolar disorder and he deteriorates during the course of the film. His mind is fragile, or as his mother explains it to Inka, ‘he feels things a lot more than most.’
In stark contrast Inka, quiet and subtle and lacking in self-confidence, starts to flourish and her transformation into a published, critically acclaimed author, happens simultaneously with Juhana’s increasing mental instability and intellectual decline. She becomes an individual, who can express her creativity smoothly and freely, whereas his creativity and writing procrastinates and he starts to experience an inability to write and express himself. The decline affects his writing career and he blames Inka for this, saying that ‘you became an author in my arms.’ The decline takes him to a psychiatric ward where he remains at the point where the film ends.
Ultimately, Love and Fury takes us on a tragic, emotional journey. But it does so in an incredibly beautiful way. There is a lot of intimacy along the turmoil and tragic events supported by some very strong acting performances. On some level, the story is about something very specific but it retains an appealing timelessness along the way, making it both relevant and engaging.