Saturday, February 04, 2012

Vuosaari / Naked Harbour

Nordsjö. FI © 2012 Edith Film / First Floor Productions. P: Pauli Pentti, Liisa Penttilä. D: Aku Louhimies. SC: Aku Louhimies, Mikko Kouki, Niina Repo. DP: Tuomo Hutri - Arriflex Cameras - 2,35:1. AD: Sattva-Hanna Toiviainen. Cost: Tiina Kaukanen. Makeup: Marjut Samulin. M: Markus Koskinen. S: Kirka Sainio. ED: Benjamin Mercer. Loc: Vuosaari (Helsinki). C: Laura Birn (Iiris), Mikko Kouki (Pertti), Lenna Kuurmaa (Viivi), Matleena Kuusniemi (Sara), Deogracias Masomi (Make), Amanda Pilke (Milla), Jasper Pääkkönen (Anders), Alma Pöysti (Marika), Sean Pertwee (Robert), Pekka Strang (Lauri), Emilia Leppilampi (Emma). Also with: Teemu Heino, Kari Heiskanen, Maria Järvenhelmi, Alma Louhimies, Eemeli Louhimies, Konsta Mäkelä, Taneli Mäkelä, Meri Nenonen, Jekaterina Novosjolova, Sulevi Peltola (taxi driver), Janne Reinikainen, Pertti Sveholm, Topi Tarvainen, Kati Outinen (bar psychologist). 122 min. In Finnish with English, Swedish, and Russian, with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Susan Heiskanen / Saliven Gustavson. Dist: Buena Vista International Finland. 2K DCP viewed at Kinopalatsi 1, Helsinki, 4 Feb 2012 (premiere weekend).

The official synopsis: "Naked Harbour is a movie about Finnish love in the year 2011. It is a story about people who seek love and acceptance at any cost. During one winter week all its characters face something irreversible."

"In the Sara-Lauri equation there is something wrong. The life designed to be perfect is in crisis. Milla believes she has found a mentor and a way to the stars but the truth is otherwise. Pertti tries to take care of the physical fitness of himself and his son but brings about a catastrophe. The school bullies harassing Walter drive him to an extreme situation. Aleksi's mother does not understand the meaning of the dog for her son. The American Robert gets to experience Finnish winter, and Marika is forced to meet mortal fear together with her little daughter. All the characters of the movie are imperfect, weak and lost, but all of them are driven by the need to be loved, seen, and touched."

"The people fail truly to meet each other, and they hurt each other, but in the background lives hope". (The official synopsis, my translation.)

At the Kinopalatsi box office I learned that the house has been packed for Vuosaari / Naked Harbour, which had its premiere yesterday, and the buzz is good for Aku Louhimies's new high profile movie. Vuosaari has a similar approach as Paha maa / Frozen Land had seven years ago. They belong to the Querschnitt (cross-section) tradition of the cinema which became popular in the 1920s and whose famous representatives include Otto Preminger and Robert Altman. Altman called his approach "multi character form", and it has been especially prominent during the last decade or two. Also picaresque, detective, and chase stories, and the entire Odyssey tradition of fiction have had potential for the "multi character form". I don't watch tv but I understand that an extremely chopped style of multi character narrative is the norm in much tv fiction today; perhaps as a reflection of the short attention span. In Finland nobody remembers that the traditionalist number one Edvin Laine in his best work cultivated the grand multi-story ensemble vignette form very efficiently, because Laine was never considered a hip and cool guy.

Vuosaari is a serious and ambitious movie which is likely to be discussed for a long time. Some initial remarks:
1. The emphasis on the children's look is something new in a movie by Louhimies. I bambini ci guardano - the children are watching us.
2. Families are broken, single parents are too exhausted to take proper care of their children, and even quite small children get to carry adult responsibilities and face truths of life too soon.
3. Television is an important presence, and in an entirely soulless way. The world of reality tv is like an open sewer in the living room showing a state of existence even worse than the one the characters have to confront.
4. The culture of humiliation familiar from tv contests is imitated by school bullies.
5. Empty celebrity idolization has influenced young Milla who has no skills and is ready to do anything to become something.
6. The actors and the performances are strong and memorable.
7. The editing, maybe influenced by the contemporary tv series practices, is too chopped to my taste. This is a character-driven movie, the performances are good, and the impact might be greater with a bit more measured editing.
8. The harridan, the basic female character of contemporary Finnish cinema, is interpreted this time by Matleena Kuusniemi, Laura Birn, and Emilia Leppilampi.
9. The narratives are grim until just before the finale. There is a story of two junkies (Laura Birn, Deogracias Masomi), sex under violent threat by enforcers, armed robbery, escape at the harbour. - The Russian mother's bullied son Walter acquires a shotgun from her mother's boyfriend / customer, and is almost about to use it. - The single mother Marika (Alma Pöysti) battles with cancer. - Milla (Amanda Pilke) humiliates herself sexually in her quest for "celebrity"; Anders (Jasper Pääkkönen) tries to discourage her but not too determinedly. - There is one married couple (Sara / Matleena Kuusniemi, Lauri / Pekka Strang), but their love is dead, and the husband is carrying an affair with Viivi (Lenna Kuurmaa). - Until just before the finale Vuosaari is about people who do not know how to live, who have lost their joy of life and who are mostly uncomfortable with themselves. The sex in Vuosaari has made tabloid front-page news, but even the sex is sexless. Vuosaari is about life that is beginning to resemble reality tv. - The mother of Aleksi whose best friend is a dog kills the dog. - In the end the junkies escape Vuosaari, Marika overcomes her cancer, Lauri leaves Sara, Milla gives up her illusions about celebrity, and Walter refuses to commit school killings after all. Instead Milla and Walter go singing together.
10. The music score by Markus Koskinen, whose work I liked last year in Ella & Aleksi, is interesting.
11. Shot on location in Vuosaari, the 54. arrondissement of Helsinki, the movie does not try to pay justice to the actual look of the neighbourhood (where I have read the director lives, himself). The actual Vuosaari is an exciting, even beautiful, place with many aspects. The Vuosaari of the movie is a rather grim soulscape.

My main remark is the same I made about Varasto the novel. I think the points about the shallow and brutalized circumstances of the characters may be valid, but I keep looking for a stronger counter-image of some kind, a more powerful sense of spirituality, be it a sense of humour, a feeling of a stronger human potential, or a more pronounced presence of wit in the dialogue. Vuosaari is a grave movie in which we follow its characters in dark turning-points of their lives. People who go to see it will not have their hours wasted.

Close-ups look fine in the 2K DCP.

No comments: