This documentary tells the story of Jani, a 19-year-old drug addict living on social welfare among with his friends. Tired of his life in a remote city in Rovaniemi, he decides to travel by... See full summary »
When a schoolteacher is sacked he projects his bad mood at his troubled teen son. He in turn buys a CD player from a pawnshop with counterfeit money. This causes a chain-reaction that ... See full summary »
A comedy about Janne, a man from Lapland in Northern Finland, a man who has made a career out of living on welfare. Inari, his girlfriend, is tired of Janne's incapability of getting a grip... See full summary »
With few options, newly pardoned convict Leila agrees to work as an assistant to a blind pastor. Father Jacob spends his days answering the letters of the needy, which Leila finds pointless... See full summary »
An old dog has a hard time learning new tricks in this drama set in Turku. Ari, a paramedic, is a chronic womanizer; he makes it a point of pride to never sleep with the same woman twice, ... See full summary »
Fleeing from the Russian secret police, a young Estonian fencer is forced to return to his homeland, where he becomes a physical education teacher at a local school. The past however catches up and puts him in front of a difficult choice.
Hendrik Toompere Sr.
It's a concept that seems both bizarre and confronting - watching Finnish men sit in a sauna and listening to them talk about their lives. We witness an emotional and physical steam. The premise is so basic that it comes as a shock just how moving this documentary turns out to be. 'Steam of Life' is a 2010 Finnish documentary directed by Joonas Berghall and Mika Hotakainen. They film men as they talk about their lives in a way that is sometimes painfully slow for the audience, and at the same time painfully difficult for the men. They talk about their families, those that they love, their dreams and aspirations. We see just as many unique saunas as we see unique souls that have been severely affected by the rigors and demands of life. It is a deeply moving documentary, both for the men who tell their stories and for the audience who listens to them. The sauna is a haven of physical and emotional release. And in our journey from sauna to sauna around the country, we listen to incredible stories and witness unique individuals that remind us of the complexities of humanity.
Perhaps the most confronting aspect of the film, initially, is that the men are completely naked. This conveys the vulnerability of the men who defy Finnish stereotypes to open up emotionally to the camera. The focus on the men as human beings, without special effects, shows us that that documentary does not intend to hide any aspects of the individuals. The directors also utilize the technique of framing the man speaking and the men listening in one camera shot, which has the effect of making the audience feel like they are in the sauna with the men and listening to their stories in an intimate environment.
The use of saunas in the film reflects their deeply held importance in Finnish culture. Saunas have great cultural significance and as we can see in the film, there are numerous styles and locations of saunas. These saunas provide Finnish people with a sense of community and belonging - it is a place where they can physically be revitalized and emotionally find a release. It seems fair that saunas almost hold a spiritual significance for the Finnish in the sense that they are a sanctuary. They are a place where any kind of person, with any history, can find solace and peace.
The stories that the men tell are deeply personal and moving. For example, some men talk about the pain of losing a child after a bitter divorce, others talks about the death of those they loved, while one man talks about his stepfather beating him as a child. The directors juxtapose light-hearted and comedic vignettes to create an emotional roller coaster that even further engages the audience. Perhaps the best example of this is when one man talks about a relationship with a companion that he adores. The audience can only be surprised when a brown bear looms into the frame and is presented as the companion that the man was talking about. The man's conversation with his bear, Juuso, is moving: "Right Juuso. You were only a boy when we had our sauna. A very little boy Left without washing, did you? Yes, that's right. The bear has become a real friend to me. It's an intelligent animal, learns very fast. And it is a true, loyal friend indeed. Right, another one gone. This is the name of the game." His story might not be the norm, but it further emphasizes the main theme of the documentary - every individual has a story that is incredible and completely unique to them.
'The Steam of Life' is a wonderful exploration of Finnish culture, as well as the deep complexities of the individual. I enjoyed the film thoroughly. The simplicity and rawness of the men talking about their lives was unique and refreshing, and it allowed the audience to connect deeply with the individuals in the film. I found myself completely immersed during the emotionally moving stories that were told, as well as amused by the lighter moments that were strewn throughout.
I would most certainly recommend this film. It is like no documentary I have ever seen before, and the audience is engaged throughout. Additionally, it communicates strong messages about the nature of life and humanity, and how we are all united by the complexities of our past experiences. 'The Steam of Life' is most certainly worth viewing. It is an emotional roller coaster for all involved.
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