December 6, 2008
The Way You Wanted Me, 1944
In a pivotal encounter in Teuvo Tulio's Song of the Scarlet Flower, a lovesick Olavi seeks solace in a brothel and instead finds himself confronting past transgressions when his abandoned lover Elli, now working as a prostitute, challenges him to follow through on his empty promises of marriage by arguing that, in her provocative dress and easy virtue, she embodies his ideal woman. Her mocking, desperate plea is similarly echoed by the star-crossed heroine of Tulio's subsequent film, The Way You Wanted Me. Like Kenji Mizoguchi's Life of Oharu, the film also incorporates an extended flashback to chronicle a fallen woman's plight in her delusive search for love and acceptance. And like Mizoguchi's film, The Way You Wanted Me opens to a scene of identification - in this case, the fallen woman, Maija (Marie-Louise Fock) emerges from the shadows of a dockyard into the harsh light of her humiliated station. Once a naïve, love-struck girl forsaken by her lover, Aarne (Ture Ara) in a moment of weakness, Maija would leave the insular island to work as a housemaid in the city, only to be seduced by her employer's son Erkki (Kunto Karapää), then forced to leave the household in order to avoid the scandal of a pregnancy. With few prospects for a decent job, Maija is reduced to working as a bar hostess to make ends meet, ever fending off the advances of disreputable clients, even as she continues to hold out hope for an enduring love that will redeem her from her fate. Curiously, inasmuch as Mizoguchi's film converges towards a spiritual transcendence in Oharu's retreat to monastic life, Tulio's film is imbued with a certain level of quasi-spirituality, where a cherished cross represents both existential burden and eternal love, and salvation lies in the symbolic act of communion. Within this framework, Maija's character hews closer to the titular heroine in Carl-Theodor Dreyer's Gertrud than Oharu in its sense of intractable, self-inflicted tragedy, where the idealization of the token gestures become the intranscendable barrier to the realization of love itself.