During World War II, Lieutenant Touko Laaksonen follows an officer into a moonlit wood. Shrouded in cigarette smoke, men’s faces appear out of the darkness. Their lustful gazes fall downwards as bombs and planes tumble out of the sky, and the chaos of war ignites a forbidden passion inside the young Finn. Dome Karukoski’s award-winning ’Tom of Finland’ is the historical biopic you would hope for in a story of this epoch-defining illustrator. Whilst Tom of Finland’s works may not hang from the walls of L’Ouvre as his captain dares him to dream, his drawings still start to take on an early significance.
A silent currency of acknowledgement to some, a masturbatory catalyst for others, Tom’s early drawings have a power but yet they also have the potential to imprison him or worse. Even after moving to post-war Berlin, Tom’s desires still put him in conflict with the authorities of the day. Ducking through wooded shadows and breathlessly running from police raids, his pursuers go on to ultimately feed his imagination. Their strong, authoritarian uniformed bodies in hyper sexualised poses become fetishistic fare for Tom’s illustrations. Trapped inside a forbidden love and the disdain of those closest to him, Tom finally is convinced to share his work with the world – and it’s a step that will change both his life and his name forever. As a history of a man whose imaginative desires became a movement all of its own, director Dome Karukoski’s ‘Tom of Finland’ is a more than worthy Oscar foreign language nominee. With high production values, strong performances and a solid storyline that never skips a beat, this is a movie that is deliberately aimed at a broad audience. Calmly celebrating the quiet man at its centre, ‘Tom of Finland’ deftly charts the consequences of Tom’s artistic eye and the impact of his drawings have that has given gay men a voice and a uniform forever.