Topi's mother, who is also Tenho's wife dies and Tenho and Topi have to move out from the town because they don't have enough money to pay their rent. Tenho gets a job as a lumberjack (... See full summary »
Aurora, a commitment-phobic party animal, meets Iranian Darian one night at a hot-dog stand in Lapland. Darian is running from death and Aurora is running from love. They need each other in order to finally stop running.
For once we get a genuinely ambitious Finnish art film that is actually shown in mainstream theaters, but of course it flops commercially and receives mainly lukewarm reviews from the most popular critics. We cinephiles can only hope that more films like The Visitor will be made in Finland in the future, maybe then the state of our cinema will eventually reach that of Sweden and Denmark.
Anyway, the plot of The Visitor is very simple. In an ambiguous era, possibly during the second World War, a nameless mute boy (Vitali Bobrov) lives in a remote house in the middle of a forest with his crippled mother (Emilia Ikäheimo) and regularly pays visits to his father (Jorma Tommila) who has been imprisoned for some unspecified crime. One day a strange unknown man (Pavel Liska) arrives to the house, a bullet in his side and barely conscious. The boy's father informs him that the man will stay with them for a while and that they should stay away from the stranger. He also gives the boy a small box that contains something the father deems extremely important and tells the boy to keep it a secret. Time passes but the strange man shows no signs of leaving the family, much to the father's chagrin. Who is the man? What is in the box? What is the boy hiding in an old, dried up well? No questions have clear answers in the world of The Visitor.
The film was the director and sound designer's diploma work for their studies at an arts university, and they sure have done an excellent job on their respective fields. The ominous tones, echoes, creaks, hums and raven shrieks create an eerie atmosphere that perfectly fits the visual style that is both bleak and rich at the same time. The cinematography by Tuomo Hutri is a real treat for the eyes, from the green, misty forests to the white winter snow and the prison's dark corridors. Partly due to the visual style, the film has been compared to the works of Andrei Tarkovsky, but director Valkeapää has said that he has taken more influence from the silent era masters like Fritz Lang and F.W. Murnau. The importance of silence is very evident in The Visitor indeed: the first words are spoken almost 18 minutes into the film, the protagonist never utters a word and the few other characters rarely speak more than one sentence at a time.
With so much emphasis on non-verbal communication, the actors' impact on the whole becomes even more significant than it normally is. Luckily all of the four lead performers handle their roles with natural ease and present their characters' inner feelings on their faces only. The most notable role is given to the young Vitali Bobrov in his first acting job; his solemn, blue eyes carry a sense of sadness all the way through. The menacing Jorma Tommila doesn't have to put on any kind of act to be creepy, his bearded appearance is enough to make his nature clear by itself. Pavel Liska hides the visitor's sinister sides under his handsome looks and it's not hard to see how the family's lonely mother warms to him during his time at the house.
What do all the strange details of the film mean? The boy has grown used to spending time alone, not only by living in an isolated house but by actually hiding under the floorboards of his room where he can see into the bedroom of his mother. He also has a strong connection to nature and animals: shots of ravens, insects and maggots are a recurring theme in the story – all classic symbols of death. Related to the gloomy theme are also the broken egg with a dead chicken fetus inside and the injured horse by the waterfall. Besides the dark overtones, I think family relationships are also a theme the film explores, as the boy, the mother and the father all have their own ways of coping with the presence and eventual departure of the new man in the house. The director has also said that on a child's mind, imagination is still equal to reality and since the plot is seen through the eyes of a young boy, a more dreamlike, less literal state of mind is also constantly present in the story.
Even though I agree with some critics about the 100-minute runtime being a little long for an atmosphere-driven tale like The Visitor, I feel the film very much deserves more attention than it has received now. It is wonderfully refreshing to see this type of "pure cinema" being made by Finns in Finnish, and I wish director Valkeapää will step behind the camera soon again. In the meanwhile, I urge everybody to watch this film and enjoy the visuals, sounds and performances. If possible, don't miss a chance to see it in a theater – this is the type of film that greatly benefits from a distraction-free environment.
16 of 17 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this