In the idyllic land of Kalevala, Finnish hero Lemminkäinen (Andris Oshin) woos the fair damsel Annikki (Eve Kivi), but Louhi (Anna Orochko), the evil witch of Pohjola, kidnaps Annikki in order to compel her brother Ilmarinen the blacksmith (Ivan Voronov) to build a Sampo (a magical mill that cranks out riches). Lemminkäinen and Ilmarinen travel to the witch's lair to rescue the maiden, but Louhi demands they complete several tasks, including the construction of a Sampo. After Ilmarinen builds the Sampo, he, Lemminkäinen, and Annikki leave. However, Lemminkäinen, upset at the idea that Kalevala will not reap the Sampo's riches, swims back to Pohjola, where he tries to seal the Sampo back from Louhi. The witch responds by unleashing the winds on the escaping Lemminkäinen's boat, sinking it and the Sampo with it.
When Lemminkäinen returns home, the shaman Väinämöinen (Urho Somersalmi) says even the fragment of the Sampo that survived will bring good luck, and Lemminkäinen and Annikki get married. But Lemminkäinen's attempt to steal the Sampo has angered Louhi, so she steals the sun, plunging the world into frozen darkness. Lemminkäinen's village bands together to bombard the witch with the music of sacred harps, which turns her to stone. Lemminkäinen releases the sun and everyone rejoices!
Loosely based on The Kalevala. The film was originally called Sampo and it was released in 1959. The film was produced as a Finnish/Soviet co-production and it was directed by famous Russian director of fantasy films, Aleksandr Ptushko (of The Magic Voyage of Sinbad and The Sword and the Dragon fame). It was filmed in Ukraine, Finland and Russia and starred actors from Finland and different parts of the Soviet Union. Each scene had to be shot four times, as it was dubbed in two languages (Russian and Finnish) and filmed in two aspect ratios (standard and anamorphic widescreen).
This film provides examples of:
- Adaptation Distillation: The Kalevala is a sprawling epic, to say the least, and the script of this film only concentrates on the first and third Väinämöinen cycles (the forging and subsequent loss of the Sampo), the first Lemminkäinen cycle (Lemminkäinen's death and revival), and Louhi's revenge on Kalevala (the capture of the sun). The other subplots, such as the wooing of the Northland maiden and anything involving Kullervo, are cut in the interest of time.
- Ascended Extra: Annikki is almost completely incidental to Lönnrot's version of The Kalevala, only showing up briefly in Runo XVIII to pass the news on to Ilmarinen that Väinämöinen is competing with him for the love of the Northland maiden. In this film, she becomes the female lead.
- Back from the Dead: Lemminkäinen's first attempt to retrieve the Sampo ends with Louhi distracting him and then administering a fatal snake bite, then throwing his dead body into the sea. Lemminkäinen's mother, sensing that something awful has happened, crosses the seas to Pohjola (on foot) and retrieves her son's body, restoring him to life by rubbing him with earth and birch sap and then letting the sun shine on him.
- The Big Guy: Ilmarinen is as big and muscular as an Ultimate Blacksmith ought to be, and part of his role in rescuing Annikki is to perform some of the necessary feats of strength.
- Bishōnen: Damn, Lemminkäinen is pretty. His clean-shaven face and shoulder-length blond hair give him an almost feminine appearance.
- Black Cloak:
- Part of Louhi's Wicked Witch ensemble that identifies her as the film's Big Bad. And as she is a witch, her cloak is magic; it attaches itself to Annikki's boat and blows her helplessly to Pohjola, and during the final battle, Louhi tries to send it after the Kalevala warriors, but they are able to beat it into a hole in the ice.
- Lemminkäinen's mother wears one as well, but this may only be because she is in mourning for Lemminkäinen after hearing news that he has died.
- Damsel in Distress: Annikki is kidnapped by Louhi to use as a bargaining chip to force Ilmarinen to forge the Sampo for Louhi and the trolls of Pohjola.
- Forging Scene:
- Since the whole reason Louhi has kidnapped Annikki and lured Ilmarinen to Pohjola is to force him to forge the Sampo for her, we naturally get a scene where he does exactly that, creating the mill from swan feathers, barley grains, sheep's wool, and the ingredient that only Louhi possesses (which has hitherto prevented him from forging the Sampo for his compatriots in Kalevala): the fire of the northern sky.
- When Väinämöinen tells the other Kalevala natives that they must fight Louhi with kantele, not just swords and spears, the ensuing montage includes scenes of Ilmarinen melting down the villagers' metal jewellery in his forge to make the strings for the instruments.
- Ghibli Hills: Before the sun is taken away and after it returns, the scenery is quite idyllic.
- Impossible Task: Louhi demands that Lemminkäinen and Ilmarinen plow a field filled with thousands of snakes. Ilmarinen forges a plow and does the actual tilling while Lemminkäinen fights off the snakes; while they are thus engaged, Louhi's trolls destroy the duo's wooden boat, stranding them in Pohjola.
- Love Interests: Lemminkäinen and Annikki fall in Love at First Sight as Lemminkäinen makes his way home by river; later that day, Lemminkäinen gushes to his mother about Annikki's blue eyes, and Annikki gushes to Ilmarinen about Lemminkäinen's blond hair. When Louhi kidnaps Annikki, Lemminkäinen doesn't think twice before vowing to rescue her, whatever the cost.
- Magic Music: Väinämöinen tells the Kalevala warriors that Louhi must be defeated with the sound of kantele (Finnish instruments similar to zithers) rather than only with swords and spears. The music causes the trolls of Pohjola to go into a trance, and since they can't stop up their ears and use their weapons at the same time, they are rendered helpless.
- Mythology Gag: The film begins with a shot of a statue of Elias Lönnrot and Impi (symbolic of the poetry of The Kalevala), which magically come to life.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Lemminkäinen and his attempt to retrieve the Sampo. As he tries to take the magic mill back to Kalevala, his boat is destroyed, and the Sampo with it; only a small fragment remains when he finally returns. Väinämöinen says that even this tiny piece will bring luck at least.
- Non-Indicative Title: The English-language version's title, The Day the Earth Froze, makes it seem like some sort of sci-fi film or disaster movie rather than a fantasy film. Additionally, it makes the implication that the Earth freezing would be the central point of the film, but doesn't actually happen until the final act.
- Public Domain Artifact: The stories of The Kalevala go back to antiquity, but they all involve a mysterious artifact known as the Sampo that brings prosperity to those who possess it. In the film, it is interpreted as a magic mill that produces endless supplies of gold, grain, and salt.
- Scenery Gorn: After the sun is taken, the land looks a lot less pretty.
- Scenery Porn: The cinematography uses the natural beauty of Finland to maximum effect.
- Supervillain Lair: Louhi's island.
- Taken for Granite: Louhi's final fate; the music of the kantele turns her into a stone statue as she makes a defiant final stand in front of the door to her lair. She gets broken into hundreds of pieces by Lemminkäinen immediately after.
- Ultimate Blacksmith: You name it, Ilmarinen can make it in his forge. A horse made of iron, a moose-boat... even a Sampo! After the endless winter begins, Lemminkäinen actually convinces Ilmarinen to start forging a new sun (the original sun having also come out of Ilmarinen's forge), although Väinämöinen talks him out of it.
- Wicked Witch: Louhi commands a vast array of magic spells that have allowed her to imprison the winds in giant sacks as well as spy on Annikki and kidnap her with her enchanted Black Cloak, the better to force Ilmarinen to forge the Sampo (which he can only create once) for her and her trolls instead of for his compatriots back in Kalevala.