MARIA DUARTE recommends a no-holds-barred biopic of artist Tom of Finland
Tom of Finland (18) Directed by Dome Karukoski 4/5
FINNISH artist Touko Laaksonen, better known as Tom of Finland, was one of the most influential figures of 20th-century Western gay culture and film-maker Dome Karukoski brings his colourful and impressive life story to the big screen in this thought-provoking and gripping biopic.
It outlines his journey from advertising executive to a leading figure in, and emblem of, the gay movement. Pekka Strang’s powerful and understated performance as Laaksonen does justice to a man ahead of his time who, in the late 1950s and 1960s, stood up to a world which would not allow him to be a homosexual man with gay fantasies.
He managed it through his extraordinary skill and eye and his explicit homoerotic drawings.
It’s now half a century since homosexuality was partly decriminalised in Britain and it was not until 1971 that it was legalised in Finland.
The film graphically shows how Finnish gay men were hunted down, beaten and jailed while others were forced to marry and have children to hide their sexuality or undergo treatment to rid them of their homosexual “tendencies,” a ludicrous and obscene situation.
Touko returned from WWII as a decorated officer to Helsinki, a bleak and intolerant city where homosexuality was illegal and the film depicts how he kept his sexuality and furtive encounters secret, even from his sister.
He worked at an advertising agency during the day and in his free time would draw explicit pictures of uninhibited and proud gay men — lumberjacks and bikers — having sex. He sent them to a US magazine which led him to go to Berlin and Los Angeles and make his work more widely available.
It’s a remarkable story and one which is a stark reminder of the intolerant past and how much has been achieved in gay rights — but how far we still need to go.