Peter von Bagh: Muisteja [Memories]

17 April 2015 | Mini reviews, Reviews

muistejaPeter von Bagh
Muisteja [Memories]
Helsinki: Like, 2014. 426 pp., ill.
ISBN 978-952-01-1093-2
€29.95, hardback

Peter von Bagh (1943–2014) became a cinephile legend in his lifetime. He was the son of a German emigrée, a psychiatrist from St Petersburg; his mother died when he was six, and his stepmother, ‘mean and stupid’, destroyed in his absence all his personal belongings, books and photographs. In this memoir von Bagh contends that his own films were to a large extent a means of reconstructing the past that his stepmother destroyed. Von Bagh was editor-in-chief of Filmihullu (‘Film fan’) magazine for 43 years, published more than 30 books on cinema and its history, worked in radio and for the National Film Archive, and directed dozens of films, mainly for television. He promoted the Midnight Sun Film Festival in Sodankylä, Lapland, for twenty-eight years, and held the post of artistic director of Bologna’s Il cinema Ritrovato festival for thirteen. This book presents the reader with a huge number of people, films, books, encounters and travels; although, typically of von Bagh, who, despite his doctorate, never cared for ‘formalities’, and rather annoyingly, there is no index. (Surely the publisher could have provided them!) But both self-criticism and the acidic, boldly blunt comments on anything – or anybody – that the writer considers ridiculous or stupid, the knowledge and the experience as well as the sardonic humour make the book a very worthwhile experience. The reader is very thankful for the fact that the author was able to finish writing this book of memoirs.

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