Laugh or Die (2018) - full transcript

In a detention camp in 1918, a group of Finnish actors are sentenced to death. When an important German general arrives, the camp's vicious commandant forges out a cruel plan: the ...



The Finnish Cicil War has ended
in the victory of the Whites

assisted by the Imperial German Army.

More than 80,000 Reds have been
locked up in prison camps.

Thousands have already been executed,
or have starved to death.

Rebel leaders not captured yet
have gone into hiding,

fearing discovery.


There's no one here.




Any leaders?

Go home.

Go home, women.

Any leaders?


Fall in!
This way!

Get him on his feet! Move!

Form three lines!


A straight line!
Don't lean against the wall! Rautio!

Repeat after me.
One, two, three. You there.

Thank you.

You there. Let's hear it.

One, two. Death to the Russkies!

Your name?

Your name?

What's so funny? Your name!

Toby Belch.

Toby... Belch.


How many are we?
Over a thousand in early summer.

Half of the Parliament's
Socialists were there.

Only a few left now.


Scourge of the ruling class
Sent to Hades, sent to jail

Summarily hanged, shot

Hero of the Revolution


Freedom carries a heavy price

There's still justice in the world.

Where are the rest? Johansson?

Where did you go?
You were to get help.

Headquarters was deserted.
You left us.

I couldn't get back through
that artillery fire.

You were seen at the Station.
On the leaders' escape train.

Who made us join the Guard?
Women, too.

Where's Tyyne now?
Pregnant, in some camp!

You're pretty well fed.
Got anything to eat?


Russki tack bread!

We're here because of you!

Do you still have nightmares?

No, Captain.

It's the sea air. It hardens you.

Siikander is the best tailor
in Helsinki.

He made Bobrikov the suit
he was shot in.

I have a job for you.

We have far too many prisoners.

You have three weeks
to get rid of these. Three weeks?

Head of the Prison Service
Major Juvelius will inspect the camp.

We must get these off the roster.

And I need a new uniform.

You will now carry out
the executions.

Can you handle it now?

Yes, Captain.

Just close your eyes when you
give the order. It'll be all right.

What were you looking at? The city?

German naval manoeuvres.

In three weeks' time I'll take you
to Hotel Kämp for an eggnog.

Or to a concert. I promise.

I enjoy myself here quite well.

Helen! Would you sing
for Major Juvelius' entourage?

The piano is out of tune.

Get inside!
No loitering outside after dark.




0 knight!
Thou lack (st a cup of canary!

Toby Belch.

I saw you in that role.
Couldn't think of a better name?

Alfred Nyborg.

Gunnar's son?
One and the same.

I'll be damned. You were in breeches
when I saw you last.

What happened to your face?

What are you doing here?
Why didn't you say who you are?

You've got MPs here, too.

Did you join the rebellion? Why?

You'd only got the Russkies
back in power again.

From Russkies to Fritzes.

We'll soon have a German king,
won't we?

The Parliament
will decide on it soon.

I'm happy it's all over now.

Perhaps I'll see you on stage again.
Tell me.

All leaders will be shot, right?

A leader?

So, between us leaders.

To the end of the line!
Thanks. I ate already.

What's with Hannula? He's been
like that since they shot Elmeri.

You'll find another one yet.

Theatre people! Fall in!

Fall in!

Where are the rest? What do you
think? In wooden overcoats.

Shut up!

You laugh at me? Damn you!

Get up!

Right turn! Right!

Didn't you learn anything
in the Red Guard? Forward march!

Where're we going? Must be
the amnesty. It was in the papers.

Workers' Theatre people.
Leave your cups here.

Kasimir Elo, actor.

Born 3 February 1874
in the Parish of Helsinki.

Where were you in the evening
of April 12, this year?

At the theatre.
Taking care of the wounded.

Any witnesses?

According to Lieutenant Winge

his unit was shot at from
the Workers' Theatre. We never shot.

That's what it says in here.
We haven't shot anyone.

Why did you have guns
when arrested?

We were ordered to.
Who gave the order?

If the one responsible is not
discovered, the duty of this court...

We never shot anyone.
Parikka! Tell them!

We were out of ammunition!

Who's he?
He's Parikka!

Toivo Parikka, the actor? Did he give
you orders? Yes! He put us up to it.

A leader and an agitator.

You know that it means
a death sentence?

Shall I tell him?

Do you admit that your unit
fired upon the Germans?


They can't even to load a gun.

I killed them. No use to sentence
these shitpants for it.

How did you singlehanded

shoot twelve German
Special Forces soldiers?

I had twelve bullets left.

Tell us. How did you manage that?

I was watching

on the Linnunlaulu cliff
as the Germans approached.

Their artillery fire
was quite accurate.

Had to watch my step.

There went the People's House tower.
Well, it was ugly anyway.

I met Helander the cobbler.

He told me that the Fritzes had just
burned down the Turku Barracks,

with the men inside.

Luckily he had some
moonshine with him.

We sat on the stairs of the Kallio
church, drank the whole bottle dry.

Helander went
to look for his old lady.

I went into the church,
it kept rumbling outside.

"How could I help
the workers' cause?"

I went and crapped in the pulpit!

Then I headed for the Theatre.
The Fritzes were banging at the door.

Going in without a ticket!
Now that won't do at all.

So I climbed to the roof.

I shot the last in line,
his ears stuck out a mile.

Then I knelt down,
shouted into the drainpipe:


The whole platoon stood at attention.

I started to pick them off.

No muddy boots
to the Temple of Thalia!

Buy yourself a ticket!
Soldiers at half price!

No private bottles
into the auditorium.

How stupid do you think I am?

Pretty stupid, sir.

Don't you know how
to behave in a courtroom?

What kind of a man are you?
The funniest man in Finland.

I've got it in black and white.
Printed in "Helsingin Sanomat".

Very well.

We sentence the Workers' Theatre
Red Guard company to death

for complicity in the...
Why all of us?

We're innocent, the rest of us!
Parikka confessed!

You were all in it!
Take the condemned away!

God in your mercy.

Wipe away my wrongdoings.

Wash me clean of my crimes
and cleanse me of my sins.

For I know my transgressions
and my sins will always be before me.

Behold, I was born in sin
and my mother begat me in sin.

Behold, you want the truth
to live in my heart.

You teach me to learn wisdom.

That's the theatre crew.

Get it on already.

Stand arms!

Excuse me.
Want to hear a funny story?


Gunnar Nyborg, the Sergeant Major's
father, was my Sunday school teacher.

A small, sweaty man,
always talking about Jesus.


One time he asked: "What's brown
and furry with whiskers?"

Normally a squirrel, I said.
But since you're asking

it must be Jesus.


Did you really think
you'd get off this easy?

I can make jokes, too!

Take the prisoners into the camp.
This one into the stable.

Remember to close
your eyes next time.

What are you eating? That's not fair!

I've got matchsticks! I'll torch the
stable if you won't share your food!

You are talented.

A talented bullshitter.

I have a job for you.

The King of Finland?
I can consider that.

The Head of the Prison Service
comes here in three weeks' time.

You will perform for his entourage.

You will make a comedy.

If it is amusing,
you and your comrades may live.

The Sgt Major will supervise
the rehearsals. Get down to work.

You have eighteen days.

Make the audience laugh
or you will be shot.

What am I accused of?
I haven't done anything wrong!

Give me something to eat!

Well? What've you been plotting
with those butchers?

What's that?
A play.

Which play?
A comedy.

What's he writing?
Go and ask.

How did it go? The Provost came...
His soninlaw's in the cupboard.

But it's the boy's father.
How does it go?

"Gracious me! If I only could
get back my unfortunate letter!"

Good. Are you writing "The Marriage
Plot of Provost Pettersson"?

It drew full houses for weeks.
It has female roles, too.

That razor turns you
into a woman in a flash.

You know where he brought it here?

How about my stupid maid
with a droopy chin? "Gracious!"

We'll write her in. You can't put
all the funny characters in one play.

Why not? Who's in?

Who wants to live? I bloody well
won't clown around for the butchers.

They'll shoot us after the play.
We lost the war already.

Hannula? Like to do
one more play with us?

Not without Elmeri.

Dig a deep hole and bury this in it.

Remember the churchwarden
who walked like this?

Vehviläinen, the churchwarden.

Short legs, a quick step!
Good, Hannula.

Real tight ass! Hands working
elegantly! He's so important!

Would a maid walk like that?
Would I be a girl?

Fall in!

Stand arms!



Shoulder arms.

Your father must be proud of you.
Sending so many godless men to hell.

Were you at the front?

Six months in the German Army.

It was nothing compared to Vyborg.

What happened there?

Everyone got killed.

All Russians, both Reds
and the burghers.

All were shot by the wall.

Women and children in high piles.

Who did it?

Our company.

You have to look forward.
We have a premiere coming.

First things first.
Have you any food?

Where will we perform?
Not in the camp? No.

We need props.
Instruments, costumes.

Sergeant Major!
Mrs Kalm.

You're preparing a comedy.

Your husband promised to spare
the actors if they will perform.

My husband wants me
to make sure that the play

will be highclass enough
for Major Juvelius.

I prepared a play for
the Folk Education Society.

And I want to meet
this Mr Parikka. Take me to the camp.

I don't think you should, Mrs Kalm.

Tell him I intend to be present.

To see that the play
will be suitable.

They are all too small.

Now it will fit.

Not that one. It belongs to my son.

I've heard stories about you.

Must be true, all of them.

You have at least twelve children
in Helsinki alone.

And your father is a Turkish sultan.
That's not true.

I've got fourteen.

I will come to your rehearsals.

Sgt Major will tell you
when we have something to show.

Is this fine?
Something's missing.

Wouldn't this fit him better?

Do you know how to walk in it?

It was our son's violin.

Imagine yourselves
with tail feathers, like peacocks.

Hannula, that's a chicken.


Let's see it again.

Oh yeah.

Let us borrow it.
I won't, not to him.

He's a fine man, knows how to play.
A man? That one?

You'll get it back.
I won't.

They made us come.
Doesn't smell of shit here.

But something sure stinks.

Elo. You're Elvira.
The other leading role.


Do you know what this is?
Your ticket

out of here. Aulis.

You want to see your bride?
And that kid you'll have?

Did I betray you?

Was surviving my crime? No.

Here's our final struggle!

It's middling shit!

But you need to show that you are
greater actors than this text!

Rise above it! Show that even here

you can achieve something so unique

that even the Prison Service
head devil will fart of joy!

That just for a moment,
the world is

one governmental fart's
worth a better place.

Right! Listen up!
Here's a chest of drawers.

Here's a door. And this is a sofa.

Johansson, you're a coffee table.

You fine with no lines?

Why not?

How wonderful to be back home!

I can't wait to tell
the happy news to my father.

Oh, my dear Augustin!
Dear Elvira!

How's my hair?
Wonderful, darling!

My trousers!

My father! He...

He will...

Don't say.
Don't say, I'll remember it soon.

Bring him the text.
We'll take another scene.

Don't give up on the first day!

Who the hell are you
to boss us around? Theatre Manager.

As Mr janitor well knows.
You never were a proper socialist.

You wanted to be a leader
as it's the biggest role.

This is going nowhere.
You can see how weak they are.

We need proper food
to give them strength!

There is no food. The Germans took
everything the Russkies left here.

There's food here. I've seen it.

Do you want the play?

Or shall I go swimming?
You'll have to shoot me.

It's seven kilometres to mainland.
I'll swim eight just to be certain.

What food? Where?

I'll have to shoot you
if we get caught here!

A loaf for the lords,
with real flour.


And that's not all. We won't
open this until the premiere.

Explain! Search the room!

Those foodstuffs were for
the Prison Service delegation

arriving here in two weeks.
Shall I now feed them lichen?

Why do you think the guilty party
is one of the guards?

The prisoners
are behind lock and key.

Lot of trash
among the conscripts, too.


Captain, sir! Nothing here.

The punishment will be
exceptionally severe.

You know what that means.

I'll look into it.

Eat faster.


About those Germans.

It was me.

But I only shot one.

Not more. I did shoot at another one
too, but he didn't die.

I knew that.

Here's some for Mr janitor.

A people's sausage!
Socialized from the Commandant.

Eat it for the cause.

Break's over.
Hide the sausages in your clothing!

Well now. Show me what you've got.

Sit down, please.

From the top. Hannula.

Make one for me, too?

For the role.

Perhaps. If there's any fabric left.

Make it as tight as possible.

Good day, ma'am.

Can any of you play the violin?
Yes. Thank you.

Did you fight in Tampere?


Is that where your son...

Last day of March.

The commander ordered them to attack
while he ran away from the line.

They were surrounded.
They had no chance.


Thank you.

Dear Augustin!
Only death can do us apart!

Bravo! Bravo!


Hjalmar. No!

Carry on.

Give me a scarf.

Aulis. You got a hole
in your trousers.

Forgive me.

Damn you, Elo!
We have a premiere coming!

Keep your eyes open!

Make your play yourself!

Nothing will come of it
if you shoot the actors!

Where did the prisoner
get the sausage?

Any ideas, Nyborg?
Who let him out of the camp?

I won't act for you any more.
Captain, some Germans are coming.

You will, if you want
to save your comrades.

But you will be shot anyway.
Right after the performance.

Good evening, Lieutenant.

The Parliament will vote about
the monarchy tonight.

The Finnish conscripts are to be
disarmed until tomorrow morning.

But Why?

My men will obey my orders
even if they aren't monarchists.

We were instructed to take
no risks with conscripts.

Your rifle!

All right.
This is for you.

From Headquarters.

Let's go!



General von der Goltz and
Protector of the State will visit us!

Why on earth? They want to transfer
all prisoners to work in Germany.

They're not fit for work,
they can hardly stand.

This is our chance
to get away from here.

I must impress the General. I might
get a job at the Headquarters.

Evenings in the Kappeli again!

Thank God I had the foresight
to have a new uniform made.

We don't have anything to offer.
They'll be here day after tomorrow.

Well, you have
the funniest man in Finland.



What are you doing?
Aren't we on the same side?

Would the Sergeant Major
kindly give up his weapon?

No, he would not. My regrets.
The Sergeant Major will not give up.

Let him keep his weapon.
He's completely harmless.

Harmless? Me?


The weapon!


Lock the doors.

Walk. Go, go!

What's happened to you?
Sit down!



The guards are locked in tonight.

Senate orders, while the Parliament
decides whether we'll get one

of Kaiser's idiot sons
as our king or not.

Guards are prisoners?

Here's the key to that gate.

There's a rowboat in the port.

You'll go to prison for this.

You're too great an actor
to die for those others!

Here are the last sausages.


We wanted you to have this razor.

Thank you.
We'll continue to rehearse, right?

How's your leg?
It'll heal soon.

He's strong, it's just a scratch.

If Hannula stands in for Elo...

You're a maid short. How about if...

Does Mr janitor want in?

Hannula will be the maid.

You'll be better as the father.

This time we won't give up.

And never call me Mr janitor again.

Open the door!

Good morning.
Welcome to the Kingdom of Finland.

Welcome to the kingdom.

Ask them
if the King's got a princess?

Let's go to the camp, men.

They won't get far.

Sergeant Major's late.
Got a sore head?

What went wrong? Nothing. You don't
leave your comrades like that.

If you go, you go with style.

With your boots on,
a wig on your head.

The rebellion fell flat on its arse,
but we'll do one thing well.

The Commandant ran away,
leaving his son to certain death.

Will we call him Kalm or Hjalmar?


Gentlemen. Is Parikka here?

Your job is now even more
important than you can guess.

You will continue to rehearse?

Why do you worry about that?

Commander of the Ostsee Division,
General von der Goltz

will come here with
the Prison Service delegation.

With Svinhufvud,
Protector of the State. I see.

What do such big shots
come here for?

All the prisoners able to work
will be sent to Germany.

As slaves.

They have food.
Our situation is catastrophic.

This would save the lives
of thousands of men.

I give you my word.
If your play entertains the guests,

you will all go to Germany.
You, too.

You'd get to live.

But if it won't make
the General laugh

I'll have you shot twice.


General, sir.

Protector of the State, sir.

The stage will be built here.

The prisoners are in good shape.

We'll soon see, Commandant.

If the prisoners are healthy,
there's work to be done in Germany.

I very much support
your plan, General!

Hell, no! No one can make
something like that laugh.

Aquila pomarina.

Or what do you think?

I cannot say.
It's much too high up.



Fifteen minutes.
Look what I got for you.

To give you strength.

I can do it.

Dear Count, Mr Protector
of the State. Please be seated.

Who are you?
From "Helsingin Sanomat".

We heard that the famous Parikka
will return to the stage today.

Is this seat free?
Of course.

A pillow?
No, thank you.

Won't work. He'll bleed to death.

We'll have to cancel.
Never done it before.

If you can stand, you do the show.

You can desert from the front,
not from the stage.

Right. We need a standin.

No. No no no.
Who else?

You know the lines, you speak German.

Put the dress on!
Or I'll tell the Commandant

who stole his sausages!

Get ready, everyone. Nyborg will
stand in for Aulis. Break a leg!

Break a leg!

My galoshes!

Where are my galoshes?
On your feet, dear sir.

Remove them at once then!

My dear beloved daughter Elvira
will arrive any moment now!

I wonder if she has changed much?

She's been studying in Germany
for so many years!

That tomfoolery will end now!

I have decided
that she will be married.

Miss Elvira! Married!

I can't remember a single line.

Whom has she found?
She doesn't know it yet.

It cannot be true! I shall faint!

They're not laughing!
You'll be fine.

One more thing. Stay there.

She doesn't know?
And in you go!

How wonderful to be back home again.

You can hardly wait to tell

your father the wonderful news!


Father will like you.

Did someone speak? I can't hear.

Father will like you, darling!

Dear Elvira!

Just go on!

Elvira dearest!

You are getting married!
With whom?

In German! Act in German!

His name is Hans.

No! Not a German!

You don't decide it.
Hans will dine with us tonight.

No! Not a German!

What is wrong with German men?

Good Lord!

It is so painful.

Even larger than a Russian's?

What about the officers?

Do they have larger ones
than the seamen?

No! Of course not!

In that case, does the Kaiser
have the smallest one?

Of course not!
Who, then?

The Frenchmen.

The Frenchmen

have the smallest ones!

Stop! Stop the play!

This is outrageous!
You should be ashamed.

You know quite well...

You're now...

I want to know how it will end.

You want to know a secret?
I already have a fiancée.

Don't tell my father.

I'll teach you
to defy your father's will!

I am Väinö I, King of Finland!

My real name is Friedrich Karl Ludwig
Konstantin von HessenKassel.

The Kaiser's brotherinlaw.

My King!

Excuse me, but King of Sweden

forgot to make my greatgreat
greatgrandfather a knight.

Could you make me a knight?

Out of question.
Ask my bottom ha“.

Mr Bottomhalf!

Would you make me a knight?

No way! No way!

I am a war hero.
Hjalmar! Come home immediately!

Forgive us, sire.
Hjalmar has not slept enough.

He had a nightmare about
the Battle of Tampere again.

Tampere, Tampere, Tampere!
Always about Tampere!

He fled from his post, having ordered
his platoon into a certain death.

That's why he was transferred here

where it's easier to kill your enemy.

Lullaby and goodnight,

Thy mother's delight

Bright angels beside
My darling abide

They will guard thee at rest

Thou shalt wake at by breast

Lullaby and goodnight

With roses bedight

With lilies o'er spread

Is baby's wee bed

Lay thee down now and rest

May thy slumber be blessed

Goddamn you, Nyborg!

I made them laugh!

Enjoy your meal.

They were quite wonderful.

Did you know that they were
acting to save their lives?

Hjalmar promised to spare their lives
if they'd succeed in entertaining us.

They are dangerous rebels.

They were just treating
the wounded at their theatre.

Parikka at least has
committed several murders.

Really? He didn't look like
a murderer to me.

Appearances are deceiving.

General. Please pardon them.


See that they at least get beer.

Mr Protector of the State,
could you pardon them?

I don't have that kind of
authority here.

Perhaps the Commandant can do it?

Of course we will pardon them.

Well, then. Your health.

Who's the funniest man
in Finland now?

Damn you, Nyborg. You know.

This man taught me to act.

He said: "just breathe
and focus on the others."

It's the same in life.

You focus on the others.
The rest comes by itself.

Are these empty?
Yes, General.

We'll begin preparations for the
transfer of the prisoners to Germany.

No need to hurry.

Excuse me?

We are running out of grain, too.
People are starving.

The troops will not withstand
even a smallest setback.

We have complete faith in Germany.
Or we wouldn't ask you for a king.

Surely Germany cannot lose?

Kaiser has other worries besides
your dreams of a king. Commandant.

You really don't know how
to laugh at yourself.

I have done my utmost
to make you enjoy yourself here.

That you'd again be
the person I once knew.

What was I like?

Tell me.

I will go on the General's ship
to Helsinki.

Did you really think I'd pardon
that devil's spawn?

I'll have him shot the moment
the General's ship has cast off!

Why didn't you come to the sauna?

Where's Parikka?

What the hell?

Get dressed! Move the prisoners
to the camp immediately!

Move! Nyborg!

Captain, sir.

Where's Parikka?
I don't know, sir.

Find him.

Where is my uniform?

Toby Belch!

Toby Belch!
People are looking for you.

Good evening.

Have we met?

I doubt it.
Where are you going? If I may ask.

None of your business, Lieutenant.

Better that way.

How do you know what's better for me?


Dear friends. Welcome to the theatre!

You know, Parikka.

You're not even
an especially good actor.

Stand arms!



Nyborg, dismissed.

I won't leave, Captain sir.

Well. Then you join the firing squad.

Fall in, now.

Have you gone insane?

What are you doing there?

You have to shoot me, too.

I am the sausage thief.



Must I do everything myself?

Stand aside!

Stay in the line!
Stay in the line! That's an order!




Based on true events.

The project to install a king was
abandoned when Germany lost the war.

Finland became a republic again.

Approx. 20,000 Red prisoners died
and were shot in the prison camps.

Subtitles by Mikko Lyytikäinen