Film #14: Where the World Meets (1952) Mar 22, 2018 13:55:11 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Mar 22, 2018 13:55:11 GMT -5
Where the World Meets (1952)
Directed by: Hannu Leminen
Directed by: Hannu Leminen
Film #14/53; part of the Criterion Collection's "100 Years of Olympic Film" box-set
Between the Summer Olympics in 1912 Stockholm and 1936 Berlin, Finland won 166 medals, and boasted generation-defining Olympians such as Paavo Nurmi and Hannes Kolehmainen in the process. Originally selected as the site of the 1940 Olympics over Tokyo until a little-known event called World War II occurred and sent the entire globe into a tailspin of uncertainty, the city of Helsinki was finally privileged to hold the summer games of 1952. To commemorate the successful country's good fortune of hosting the world in the small Finnish city, director Hannu Leminen (White Roses) commenced production on a two-part Olympic documentary account of the games directly from the country that found a way to dominate them over the span of five decades.
Where the World Meets is the first part of Leminen's film, and it's disproportionately focused on track and field and discuss events. It begins by one of its three narrators expounding upon Finland's dominance in the Olympics, clearly from the perspective of someone who has embraced Finnish's winning culture of the time. To contextualize this, it would be like if a documentary chronicling the ongoing Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era of the New England Patriots was narrated by a lifelong Foxborough resident; the bias is irrefutable and the tone undermines the commonly reiterated mantra of the Olympics, which is that the honor of competition is a greater honor than winning. It follows this rah-rah nationalism by showing an admittedly poignant shot of Nurmi commencing the games by the lighting of the Olympic torch. Seeing the iconic 55-year-old do the honor recalls memories of him dominating track competitions; memories that are now forever housed in documentaries such as The Olympic Games in Paris 1924 and The IX Olympiad in Amsterdam.
The narrators also go out of their way to do what ostensibly everyone did back in the day, and that's point the non-white competitors' races on the spot. "Long jump can be called a black contest," one of the men state when during the respective competition, and the second black competitor to compete in a row is referred to as the previous man's "racial brother." Much like the documentary Fight Without Hate, which came four years prior and disregarded the idea of its title in order to take some jabs at women: what's an Olympic documentary from decades beyond without a little racism thrown in?
Above these details, Where the World Meets is simply not a stimulating nor engaging experience. Where as Tancred Ibsen's analysis and technical specifications in The VI Olympic Winter Games, Oslo 1952 were effective given the goals he and his crew had in mind, Leminen's film and its reliance on employing the same, interchangeably staged techniques results in a repetitive and ungainly film. Another minor detail I noticed after a little while: the film's subtitles come about a full second before the outcome of an event. So, if you're wondering whether or not an athlete clears the high-bar or not, you'll find out an instant before it occurs, alluding to the narrator being too psychic in the instantaneous moment or, more plausibly, too excited when recording voiceover.
One of the most noteworthy parts of Leminen's account is seeing Fortune Gordien, a four-time world-record holder in discus throwing, at one time launching the object 56.97 meters. Now, "everything makes him nervous," according to the narrator, who notices Gordien's shaky demeanor and goes on to suggest that it's the curse of being such an accomplished athlete that makes every subsequent competition that much more daunting to bear. His throw at the 1952 Olympic Games has flair but lacks distance; he places fourth with a throw just over 52 meters.
The final fourteen minutes of Where the World Meets are dedicated to the marathon. The narrator intriguingly contextualizes the commencement of the 26-mile run by paraphrasing Homer, who wrote about a hero from 490 BCE who ran from a Marathon, Greece all the way to Athens to inform the townspeople of a victory. He died at the price of his good intentions. That serves as the appropriate motivation for anyone contemplating an attempt at putting themselves through such a grueling test of endurance; one that could be more exaggerated if compared to what the 100-minute runtime of Where the World Meets feels like at its most inert.
Directed by: Hannu Leminen.