The Way You Wanted Me (Finland 1944): Pretty little angel eyes

The Way You Wanted Me (1944)

“Sellaisena kuin sinä minut halusit” (original title)

 

A dark frenzied tale of a fallen woman, The Way You Wanted Me careens across roads of melodrama at the speed of light. From an idyllic first love on a rural island to the hell of Helsinki bars and bordellos. From youthful abandon in the sun to a night of decrepit darkness, a young woman’s journey to perdition is one of relentless betrayal by men and by fate.

We know Maija’s destiny from the first. An ageing peroxide hooker ravaged by booze and by hurt treads the rotten wharves of Helsinki for tricks. Layering rouge on her lips she drops lipstick and compact, and peers down into the fetid hole of her existence. Cut to a young girl picking petals off a daisy – the game of young love. Her seaman lover returns to ecstatic gambols in the fields and sweet love-making in her bed.  A family feud intervenes and the boy betrays her love.  Her sin in the village cannot be borne. Now a maid in a wealthy household in the city. Seduced and abandoned in the next frame. On the streets with no money and a baby to feed. Crying on a park bench a gentle procurer takes her in. Cheap booze, cigarettes, and lecherous old men her new domain. A gentle customer saves her, takes her in, loves and cares for mother and child. This redemptive ménage is soon destroyed also. Back to the booze and cigarettes.  And the terrible twists continue. All telegraphed by a grotesquely emotional score of sweeping highs and dramatic lows.  The girl’s own mother a dark angel in village garb who by her appearances and admonitions heralds more darkness to come.  The heroine cries a lonely lament in a resplendent church in awe of the fenestred gaze of Jesus. His compassion is for others and she collapses  at the alter of her own sinfulness. The final scene. The flashback is over. She leans down to retrieve her tools of trade, and completes her make-up. One last attempt at deliverance when she admonishes a beginner to quit the trade. Kicking away horse droppings on the ground she wearily trudges up a gang-plank for another sordid assignation below deck.

A film noir? Decidedly. Hyper-expressionism and a tragedy played out in dark nights of the soul.  Flashback and a down-beat ending. But not just these elements, more the parasitic fatalism that feeds on each new betrayal and degradation.

High melodrama from one of the masters. Director and writer Teuvo Tulio produced a string of melodramas in the 30s and 40s. Former Village Voice film writer J.Doberman beautifully encapsulates the Tulio ethos of movie-making in this extract from a piece on a retrospective of four Tulio films in New York in 2009 – this excellent article should be read in its entirety:

“At once arty and artless, stark and fulsome, Cine Tulio is characterized by an exaggerated emotional intensity and an equally primal lack of self-consciousness. Here is a filmmaker indifferent to mismatches, shamelessly dependent on musical cues, and hopelessly addicted to blunt metaphors. Robust open-air photography alternates with morbid studio expressionism. Healthy eroticism merges with punitive Puritanism—both are equally natural in Tulio’s stormy universe. His movies are desperate and insistent, sometimes clumsy but never less than forceful. Tulio’s strenuous lyricism allows the objective correlative to run wild: Verdant fields in super-abundant close-up segue to shots of raging rivers or low-angle figures framed against buttermilk skies.”

So it is in the gestalt that Tulio captures your attention. In an almost hallucinatory jump universe akin to wild dreams. What the surrealists were doing 20 years before in fashioning narratives by stringing disparate scenes into dreams of oneiric fantasy.

Yet, what makes The Way You Wanted Me so compelling is the depth and sincerity of the central performance by Marie-Louise Fock as Maija. She is in almost every scene and all other scenes are about her. An actress who, from what I have been able to garner, only ever appeared in this film.  She inhabits the role with a veracity and intensity that overcomes the scenario’s tendency to bathos. Her eyes are deeply expressive of all her inner turmoil and the angst of her struggle for survival. Survival and no more.

 

6 thoughts on “The Way You Wanted Me (Finland 1944): Pretty little angel eyes”

  1. “A film noir? Decidedly. Hyper-expressionism and a tragedy played out in dark nights of the soul. Flashback and a down-beat ending. But not just these elements, more the parasitic fatalism that feeds on each new betrayal and degradation.”

    Unfortunately, I have not yet seen this particular film, Tony. But I am familiar with Tulio, and do plan on seeing the films I can secure. I know Tulio was given a 2009 retrospective at BAM, an event I regret missing out on. The director had a big influence on Finnish master Aki Kaursimaki, who championed his work during the last year’s of Tulio’s lifetime. You have again written a remarkable review that has stripped bare the director’s style and deep noirish roots with some trenchant prose. This includes of course the copied quote which provides the genre validation with lucid directness. That’s quite a masterful assessment of his work by Hoberman. I also found this telling appraisal which mirrors you own extraordinary revelations:

    In a brief essay on the filmmaker for the English-language film website The Auteurs, Anna Bak-Kvapil referred to Tulio’s work as “spectacles of suffering and sex,” writing: “His style can be Eisensteinian, with expressionistic montages of the shining faces of the proletariat intercut with kittens, crucifixes, or half-smoked cigarettes, but he adores Hollywood, mimicking in his own over-enthusiastic way, Cukor, Lubitsch and Von Sternberg.”

    Simply superb review Tony!

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  2. I’m going to have to seek out some Tulio. I’ve always loved Kaurismäki. Alas this must be Fock’s only film, as ‘Sådan du ville ha mig’ is just the Swedish translation of ‘The Way You Wanted Me.’

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  3. Well, you’re sort of both right; Tulio shot some of his films twice in a ro, in finnish and in swedish, separately, i.e. not just overdubbing the lines. With lots of shared lineless establishing shots of course.

    Which presents an interesting dilemma for IMDB: should those count as one film credit even though the actors gave two separate performances in different languages?

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