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City Museum >  Museum News >  News and Events > 
 14.2.2012 Design takes centre stage in old Helsinki films

Design takes centre stage in old Helsinki films

Design in Helsinki Films is a shared exhibition of the Helsinki City Museum and KAVA, the National Audiovisual Archive. The exhibition opens our eyes to the enchanting visual experience of nostalgic Finnish films from the era between the 1930s and the 1960s and highlights their makers, who are too often left in the dark. The exhibition opens at Sofiankatu 4 on 15 February 2012 and the admission is free of charge, as it always is at the City Museum.

Photo: Suomi-Filmi Oy-kokoelma / KAVA.

The photographs, film excerpts, costumes and other items on display at the exhibition present the importance of design and the cityscape in films shot in Helsinki between the 1930’s and the 1960’s. Design and architecture had a huge impact on the imagery of films, as they allowed the creation of different urban atmospheres.

Designer costumes of the films and make-believe homes and environments commented on the prevailing reality and exaggerated contemporary phenomena. The protagonist of Hulda of Juurakko (1937) works as a maid at Judge Soratie's impressive home, which is scrumptiously set by combining the fashionable styles of the time: art deco and functionalism. 

The Suominen family, along with many other film characters, lived in the functionalist Töölö district, which was particularly fashionable in the 1930s and 1940s. The atelier of the mad artist in the film Gas, Inspector Palmu (1961) is decorated with design novelties of the time. In the film A Time of Roses (1969) the inflatable Blow chairs and patterned Marimekko fabrics depicted the future – all the way to the year 2012!

Design in Helsinki Films pays tribute to the less-known makers of Finnish films: the set designers and costumiers who created the imaginative locations and the glamour of the stars. At the same time, the exhibition offers a peek to the lives of design professionals at the film studios of Helsinki in a time during which large-scale movie industry flourished, even in Finland.

In addition to information and visual stimuli, the exhibition offers a cheerful, nostalgic trip to the Helsinki of the past, the views and life of which is recorded even in fictional films. In many of the films Helsinki, and its change, plays a major role. SF Parade (1939) proudly presents the brand new functionalist city, but in the films from the 1960s, the demolition spree and concrete colossi typical of the time are occasionally also viewed in a negative light.

The exhibition is complemented by a magazine made in the spirit of old movie magazines and also an extensive supplementary programme. A fashion show teaches us the beauty tricks of 1930s film stars and a reminiscence workshop allows us to travel back to the golden era of the block cinema theatre. At the drama tours, a know-it-all director’s assistant reveals the secrets of the film studios.

The curator of the exhibition, award-winning set designer and film history enthusiast Minna Santakari, has created an impressive setting to the visual richness of the old films. The handsome art nouveau Sonck Hall at the main building of the City Museum at Sofiankatu 4 is glowing with the reds and golds of the movie theatres in the olden days.

The exhibition is a part of the programme for Helsinki’s World Design Capital year.


World Design Capital Helsinki 2012


Design in Helsinki Films
Sofiankatu 4
Open 15 Feb 2012 to 13 Jan 2013 
Mon–Fri 9 am to 5 pm, Thu 9 am to 7 pm, Sat–Sun 11 am to 5 pm.

Film series at Orion

Films featured in the exhibition are shown throughout the year at the Orion theatre of KAVA. Tickets €5.50/with the club card €4.50/for children under the age of 12 €2. The spring programme can be found online at: http://www.kava.fi/esitykset/kevat-2012/design-helsinki

The exhibition’s supplementary programme in spring and summer 2012.

 More information

Curator Minna Santakari 
tel. +358 50 337 6370

Museum Educator Anna Finnilä 
tel. +358 9 3103 6632

Additional information on the Orion film series from 
Planner Kirsi Raitaranta
tel. +358 9 6154 0265 

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