Paavo Nurmi is a sports legend, a name people know to this day. For Finland, Nurmi was an ideal, an axiom of the nation's spirit - which includes his failings as well. A rigorously composed high mass for an icon maudit.
Paavo Nurmi was one of the greatest runners ever, and he had the wins to show it. For some time, his name was synonymous with speed, endurance and grace: if you did something the Nurmi way, you were doing good. But Nurmi's story had its more depressing side. He was accused of violating his amateur status. Nurmi died in disgrace, if fondly remembered.
Paavo Nurmi - The Man and His Times is not so much a portrait of the athlete as a vision of his times. Nurmi, here, is an icon, an epitome - just check out the opening, where we see not him but a scene from Orvo Saarikivi's Urho Karhumäki-adaptation, Avoveteen (1939), a work inspired by the Nurmi cult. More than most other works by Von Bagh, this one has a strident severity to it, a formal rigour, a focused sense of ritual that fits the subject perfectly.