Adelaide Film Festival
Review by Sarah List
Without being consciously aware of who designed it, most people would recognise Alvar Alto’s work in the ubiquitous cheap knockoff bentwood chairs from Ikea or Matt Blatt.
The work of his studio however extended far beyond this, as Aalto pioneered the concept of ‘human’ architecture in the 1920s and 30s, which placed the user of the space at the centre of the design plan. Working beyond the physical structure, Aalto’s design included everything down to the furniture, placing the needs of the people within the building to the fore.
Part design doco and part biopic, in this film the influence and impact of the working partnerships he shared with his first and second wives, Aino and Elissa are brought out of the darkness and their considerable influence and technical contributions are highlighted.
Aino especially as a trained carpenter provided a pivotal role in the establishment of Artek, a furniture company that continues today with a philosophy of buy once and mend.
Beautifully shot, the story is quite slow paced and overly long at almost two hours. As a non-architect or designer, I felt at times that I lacked the necessary background to fill in the gaps about the modernism movement that he was a part of, and the influence and techniques used in Aalto’s design process. The human story focused on the romantic aspects of his relationships, and some of the professional, but perhaps because of the slow pace I struggled to feel connected to his motivations or his working process.
Perhaps one for the more real students of Aalto and his works.