Tom of Finland (2017)
You never know how what you do today might inspire someone later.
Synopsis from IMDB: “Touko Laaksonen returns home after a harrowing and heroic experience serving his country in World War II, but life in Finland during peacetime proves equally distressing. He finds peace-time Helsinki rampant with persecution of the homosexual men around him. Touko finds refuge in his liberating art, specializing in homoerotic drawings of muscular men, free of inhibitions. His work – made famous by his signature ‘Tom of Finland’ – became the emblem of a generation of men and fanned the flames of a gay revolution.”
I really like when a film opens my eyes to something I didn’t know before. I was aware of the Tom of Finland art, but didn’t have much clue as to the artist behind the artwork. There is a whole story to Touko and his drawings that fits into a broader story of gay liberation.
This film covers a lot of history from World War II right up until about the early to mid 1980s. I like that it starts so early as it develops the main character into someone you understand later. For some this may seem like drawing out the movie, but it contributes to the narrative in an important way.
I think it also underscores how things have changed so drastically for the LGBT community in the past few decades. Films like this are important so that we don’t forget where we have been as a community, and how not long ago life was very different. Scenes where Touko and Nipa just want to hold hands but can’t in public are one simple way that demonstrates daily life for gays not that long ago. Of course, being gay then was illegal and one could go to prison (or intensive “curative” therapy if one was “lucky”)
I enjoy the theme in this film that your talents and passion, although seemingly inconsequential now, may have the ability to inspire others and maybe even change history. Touko’s sister was never supportive of him as a gay man nor of his art. Regardless, he did what he felt was right and worked for him. That had serious implications for others a continent away.
There is a scene when Touko gets to America for the first time, and it’s a life-changing experience for him. Going from the oppressive environment in Finland to the complete openness in California is eye opening. It shows him how he could live his life, and it changes him forever. This is an experience that I remember having in some way, and one that I’m not sure young LGBT people are all still having. It’s one that shouldn’t need to exist, but the representation of it in this film is important.
Theme’s of being yourself and following your passion are numerous in LGBT films, but Tom of Finland depicts them in a specific way and for a specific person. And Touko’s contributions and experiences are ones the gay community shouldn’t soon forget.