This fresh film from a young, talented writer-director Olli Ylinen is a low-budget underground film about love, youth, friendship, drugs, time, social alienation and self-discovery. But let me backtrack a little...
We all know the Finland of Kaurismäki, that gray eternal gloom of the society's downtrodden. On the other hand, we are perhaps also familiar with the optimistic success story of Nokia and the society's nouveaux riches... But what if there's a lot more to be said about the kind of lives people live in the complex, multicultural and segmented society of ours? Between the lumpen proletariat and the high-achieving market consultant there is perhaps a third important group of people, composed of that large group of unnamed, unknowable individuals, seekers and dreamers, whom I have the privilege of calling the best of my generation.
This film is both timely and precious. It is a tearing-down of the walls of perception that ensnare us into the consumerist model of movie spectator. It doesn't ask us to idolize any heroes but to take a trip down the underground lane of youthful exuberance where cynicism and idealism go hand-in-hand - where revolutions are sought for in bar toilets... Drugs are used, as they are in real life, for a variety of purposes. Boundaries are broken and thought-forms explored. The results vary from heavenly to hellish - from clarity to madness. There is alienation, not only from mainstream society but even from one's closest friends, and from one's self. Self-alienation, and the running away from love, are the themes of the film that really struck a chord with me.
I will not spend time detailing the plot, because I don't think that's a reviewer's job. However, since I understand many people will not know much about this film (since it's not exactly enjoying mainstream success), I will say a few more words on the story. As you might have figured already, the film details the life of a young, unemployed ("still very much unemployed"), drug-taking, party-going guy and his adventures and encounters with colourful characters during a time-period of maybe a few months. Of course there will be romance, and of course there will be heartache, but this film uses up those clichés in a way that feels true-to-life. This is achieved by a highly natural dialogue and an authentic-sounding delivery by the young cast of actors. When I say "young", I mean mid-20's give or take a few years. But age itself is not an issue. The strange friendship the protagonist develops with the elderly fruitcake of a gentleman, "Ilmari K. Kurki" - played charmingly, if at times over-enthusiastically - by Jyrki Nousiainen, is the most interesting and hilarious aspect of the story. What can you say about a character who combines the showmanship of a televangelist with the convictions of a Whitley Strieber and mixes them all up through a kaleidoscopic lens of hippie mysticism for the Age of Aquarius? Pretty amazing. This film shows a Finland that is something completely else, alien and probably pretty frightening for "straight culture" and its love for non-threatening banality. The hallucinatory sequences and deep/silly dialogue may be off-putting to somebody... GOOD! Then we know we are dealing with something important here.
For a film that centers on self-discovery, through love and experimentation with drugs, it spends considerable time detailing "mundane" relationships, especially of the boy-and-girl variety. Here the easily overlooked strength of the film appears: it doesn't portray characters as either good or bad, simply confused and searching. Love is not some abstract thing that can be forced to happen, it just does.
To be sure, there's nothing about this film that's all that revolutionary (except the vaguely leftist rhetoric), I mean in the sense of cinematography or editing. The film follows a pretty traditional narrative, and it doesn't go too far in the direction of "experimental cinema" except in a few drug-induced sequences. I mean, sure, it will shock a few grandmas, but hardly anyone under the age of 30. For what it's worth, the digital film is well-used, even if some of the special effects are not all that impressive: there are some sequences that look really cheap, but then again, the film WAS cheap. And anyway, this is not a special effects film but a film about people, good dialogue and heart-felt passion.
Overall, this film is something to look for if one wants to know what kind of life ALSO exists in Helsinki in this new millennium. It features some pretty radical dialogue and a very natural take on human relationships. It's still fiction, it's still exaggerated, but it's not cheesy or corny or pop-corn-y in a Hollywood way. The film is both warm and cold, both endearing and frightening, like a good LSD trip.
It's a revolution of the mind, and it's the digital revolution - but, more importantly, it's the beginning of a new wave of Finnish cinema.
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