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Ole Christian Madsen
Anders W. Berthelsen,
Tapio Suominen's most famous film is probably the 1980 youth portrayal Täältä tullaan, elämä! but the director has been active in the following decades as well, even if not the most prolific of Finnish filmmakers. After Gunpoint (1981) Suominen directed some TV works before advancing to his fourth "proper" movie, the noiry Banned from Heaven that was released in 1990.
The protagonist is a high class prostitute Pirkko "Bella" Autio (Satu Silvo) who works for a shady businessman named TT (Tapani Perttu). When her two friends and colleagues Lulu and Sara (Riikka Suikkari and Niina Nurminen) find themselves in danger at the hands of TT's deranged son and henchman Jukka (Tapani Perttu's real-life son Karri Perttu), Bella knows she has to finally set things straight with TT and sort out her dangerous lifestyle where not only ruthless clients but also the police are after the girls.
I saw the movie knowing very little about it and wondering if it would be a drama, a crime story or perhaps an erotic thriller like the first scene with a near-naked woman would suggest. As a whole the film takes influences from all of the aforementioned genres but does not quite manage to mix them into a good blend. There are many well-made aspects, such as the soft tones of the cinematography, the eerie score by Johnny Lee Michaels (a.k.a. Jouni Turpeinen) and the neo-noir-style shadows, darkness and camera angles but the story is not very interesting and the intensity never reaches the levels of real noir classics. I did not find the acting as fluid as would have been needed for this type of slick high class characters, even though Satu Silvo's natural sternness suits Bella alright and I liked the fragile Riikka Suikkari as the naive Lulu.
The most fascinating character is TT's stalker son Jukka whose mysterious motives keep the plot interesting for the most part but sadly his storyline is completely messed up at the end. What is his history? Relationship with Lulu? How did he end up what he is? I guess we will never find out what a cop-out! Besides the crime plot lines, the film can also be seen as a portrayal of friendship between women and an examination of their position in a society ruled by men but I do not really think of the film as a feminist statement after all. The big emotional scenes are not that convincing and the ending is not very strong, not only when it comes to the Jukka character but Bella's storyline as well. The police investigation subplot also fizzles out disappointingly.
A stronger script and an even more stylized presentation could have helped the movie significantly but it is not completely hopeless an effort as it is now. Finland needs more film noir and visually Banned from Heaven is pretty good as already mentioned. It can also be noted that the sex scenes are much less gratuitously exploitative than they could have been in a movie about prostitution; it is good to see the filmmakers were trying to create the feel of rawness with something else than bare female skin, although that is not to say the movie is without its kinky moments. The point is, Banned from Heaven is an interesting but not very successful film; recommended as a curiosity, not so much as a quality drama story.
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