Teuvo Tulio – Sensuela (1973)
The Finnish camp classic of all time!
“Sensuela – woman hot as hell, wet as a swamp, she will suck the men inside her!”
Not many films have the dubious honor of ranking as some of the campiest Finnish movies ever made. Teuvo Tulio (1912-2000) started to film Sensuela already in 1964, but interrupted it largely due to the financial reasons. The movie was shot entirely with an old equipment from the 1940’s, which explains the dreamy look of the shots and finely detailed color stock. Most of the scenes were shot during 1967-1968, and some of the retakes and extra scenes were still filmed after the premiere. Meanwhile one of the leading actors Ossi Elstelä died in 1969 and his lines were dubbed by Uolevi Vahteristo.
After the eight difficult years Sensuela had its premiere in Kuopio in 1973. The overall response was catastrophical – according to the statistics, only 665 people saw the movie during the very limited theatrical run, and not many people saw the film after its initial release. Saying that Sensuela had failed to succeed would unjustly imply that it ever had a chance of succeeding. Tulio described his movie as a ballad, which however gained its fame as the first Finnish porn film: Sensuela is the first Finnish movie to get K-18 rating by the Finnish film certification authority. They also demanded cuts at least into the scenes near the end of the movie involving a castration, and a scene set in the S/M club, where a woman is whipped and tortured. Those who went to see Sensuela as a porn flick, the movie and especially its Lappish scenes came as a big surprise, maybe even as a shock.
Sensuela is truly the “forgotten” or “hidden” jewel in Finnish film history. It is the first color movie from Tulio (also being his last movie), where he also benefited from the 60’s sexual liberation movement which made considerable contributions to cultural understandings pertaining to the nature of sex. Unfortunately, Sensuela is pretty awful movie too – so awful that it has a wonderful campy charm about it which make the movie one of the biggest Finnish cult movies ever made. After 10 years of hard work, Sensuela had no foreign sales and no distributor in Finland – nobody even wrote a single review on it. No wonder Tulio decided to stop movie making.
Sensuela is sort of a travelogue type film interwoven with the story of an innocent Lappish girl Laila (Marianne Mardri). Most of the time the viewer will be amused, from the very first frames. At the end of WW2 a German pilot Hans Müller (Mauritz Åkerman) crashes in Finland. There’s a plain, reminding of Ed Wood’s “Plan 9 From Outer Space”, which crashes on a rugged mountains, which appears to be Finland’s northernmost province Lapland. Laila rescues him and they fall in love. Laila’s father notices this and sends Hans away from Finland. Years later (the movie won’t explain how the 20 years went by, the actors look as they’re not aging at all) Hans arrives back to Lapland as a photographer. Laila meets Hans and leaves her home for a new life in Helsinki. She starts to act as her nude model, but soon the unfaitful Hans gets rid of her and gets involved with other women. Laila gets exploited and even the sexual revolution of the 60’s appears to be more limiting than liberating – the women have to give sex for money or totally free, for the sake of liberation.