Saturday, October 30, 2010

Harjunpää ja pahan pappi

Ondskans präst / Priest of Evil. FI © 2010 MRP Matila Röhr Productions. P: Ilkka Matila. D: Olli Saarela. SC: Leo Viirret - based on the novel (2003) by Matti Yrjänä Joensuu. DP: Rauno Ronkainen. S: Jyrki Rahkonen. ED: Benjamin Mercer. CAST: Peter Franzén (Timo Harjunpää), Irina Björklund (Elisa Harjunpää), Jenni Banerjee (Onerva Nykänen), Sampo Sarkola (Johannes Heino), Rosa Salomaa (Pauliina Harjunpää), Niilo Syväoja (Matti), Jorma Tommila (Matias Krankke), Ville Virtanen (Risto Mäki). 107 min. Released by Nordisk, no subtitles in the DCP at Tennispalatsi 1, Helsinki, 30 Oct 2010 (premiere 29 Oct 2010).

Matti Yrjänä Joensuu, a recently retired policeman, is the most respected writer of Finnish police fiction. His protagonist is the empathic police sergeant Timo Harjunpää whose experiences Joensuu has followed in 11 novels since 1976. After a ten year break Joensuu published Harjunpää ja pahan pappi [Harjunpää and the Priest of Evil] in 2003, and after a seven year break, Harjunpää ja rautahuone [Harjunpää and the Iron Room] this year, a contender for the best Finnish novel of the year.

There have been four Harjunpää tv series and one previous cinema film, Harjunpää ja kiusantekijät [Harjunpää and the Troublemakers] (1993, D: Åke Lindman, with Kari Heiskanen).

Seven years in the making by the producer Ilkka Matila, Harjunpää and the Priest of Evil deals with big issues. "The touch of evil is contagious". "Evil posing as holy". "How good turns to evil". This is no light entertainment. The killer is a deranged young man who has decided that his holy mission is to punish wrongdoers by pushing them under subway trains.

The director Olli Saarela has looked at big models, the serial killer and psycho criminal films by Jonathan Demme, Martin Scorsese, and David Fincher, not forgetting the rogue cops of Paul Verhoeven, the white doves of John Woo, and the childhood trauma of Peeping Tom. There is an emphasis on gratuitous violence and sadism in the film.

The film has turned anti-realistic. In real life Peter Franzén's psycho cop would be fired at once, and he would never have been admitted into a police school in the first place. He belongs to a glorious line of anti-realistic cops of the cinema, from Keystone Kops till Dirty Harry.

The dark imagery is expertly created by the cinematographer Rauno Ronkainen. Gray, cold, and bleak views are prominent. Within the digital aesthetics I have no complaints with the close-ups. The long shots look sharp and airless. I don't know if this depends on the cameras or the intermediates.

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