Thursday, June 13, 2013

Silmäterä / The Princess of Egypt

FI 2013. PC: Making Movies Oy. P: Kaarle Aho, Kai Nordberg. D+SC+ED: Jan Forsström. DP: Päivi Kettunen - DCP: James Post, Tommi Gröhn. AD: Vilja Katramo, Okku Rahikainen. Cost: Kirsi Gum. M: Lau Nau. S: Micke Nyström, Mika Niinimaa, Svante Colerus. C: Emmi Parviainen, Luna Leinonen Botero, Ylva Ekblad, Mazdak Nassir, Bahram Peivastegan, Miika Soini, Terhi Suorlahti. Loc: Siilitie 9 and 13, Helsinki. 90 min. Distributor: Atlantic Film. 2K DCP with English subtitles viewed at Cinema Lapinsuu, Sodankylä (Midnight Sun Film Festival), 13 June 2013

In the presence of Jan Forsström.

The Festival Catalogue: ""The centre of 25-year-old Marja's (Emmi Parviainen) life is her 7-year-old daughter, Julia (Luna Leinonen Botero). Marja works nights, so she can spend her days with Julia, playing, being silly and telling stories about The Princess of Egypt and her mother."
    "The harmony of the pair's home is disturbed when they come across Kamaran (Mazdak Nassir), an Iranian immigrant who realizes that he must be Julia's father. Kamaran and Marja have had a brief affair after which Marja didn't tell him about her pregnancy. Kamaran wants to connect with his daughter and, together with his brother and his wife, begins to pressure Marja."
    "Marja fears that Kamaran is planning to abduct Julia. To protect her daughter Marja is ready to go to extremes."" (Press material).
    "The Princess of Egypt is the debut feature film of the director, Jan Forsström, previously known for his screenwriting talent (The Visitor, Last Cowboy Standing, The Good Son). The film, inspired by true events, is a story of a mother's love and xenophobia stemming from insecurity. Fresh acting faces bring to the film a documentary-like realness that the subject calls for. Emmi Parviainen throws herself amidst issues of motherhood with strength and sensitivity. Mazdak Nassir, an award-winning film-maker who some might also recognize as the interpreter of our festival's morning discussions, is also convincing as the 'familiar stranger' who rattles the family balance." (Lauri Timonen)

Jan Forsström told in his introduction that the film was finished on Wednesday last week, and the premiere will take place in September.

In the Q&A after the film Jan Forsström answered to the question whether Silmäterä has been inspired by the recent family killings. A: Here nobody dies. Q: Why did you direct yourself this time, why could you not give this script to someone else to direct? A: It is based on details in true life cases of over ten years ago. They have been in my rear pocket. They have been brewing little by little. Q: Casting? A: Emmi Parviainen was able to project the warmth of motherhood. The seven-year-old Luna Leinonen Botero is a natural talent, and both her parents were supportive. We spent a lot of time together before the film was shot. There are a lot of friends and acquaintances. I see myself more as a screenwriter. Q: The location of Siilitie in Eastern Helsinki? A: The location was selected because of budget reasons. It is the same one as in 21 Ways to Destroy a Marriage, but you cannot recognize it. Q: Editing? A: The editor in me is more severe than the director. I cut the beginning. I take breaks to keep a distance. - We did a lot of rehearsing. The film was shot in chronological order. Emmi also played the police (seen from the back) to make Luna feel more comfortable.

Marja's work as a newspaper deliverer at night and in the early morning hours before dawn brings her into fleeting contact with many kinds of night people. Finland is one of the most or maybe the most newspaper-driven country of the world. We get to see Marja delivering Helsingin Sanomat in broadsheet; in January 2013 that newspaper shrunk, alas, into the tabloid format.

Marja is a single mother, the parent of Julia. The Finnish title of the movie, Silmäterä, is in translation The Apple of the Eye, meaning Julia. The English title, The Princess of Egypt, refers to Julia's favourite fairy-tale, one that her mother has invented for her. (But her father is Iranian).

The movie starts from Marja's viewpoint. We are alarmed when Julia speaks with Kamaran, an Iranian, who starts to realize that he is Julia's father.

Little by little we get to realize the diminished circumstances of Marja and Julia's life. It is full of love and little else. Dinner: fries and ketchup.

There is a friendly lady (Ylva Ekblad) upstairs; apparently a stewardess. She lets Marja and Julia stay in her apartment understanding their concern for Kamaran. She may be in love with Marja.

Our viewpoint starts to change when Marja buys an illegal handgun and when Marja and Julia run rampant in the elegant apartment of the stewardess.

Slowly we realize that Marja is deranged, and working night shifts does not make her condition any better. Marja is losing control of her life. She starts to resort to her gun. She brings home a canister of petrol, spreads it all over the hall and starts a vigil, believing Kamaran's people are out to get Julia.

But even Julia gets afraid of her mother, and in the finale Marja herself realizes that she needs professional help and brings Julia to the police, to safety from herself.

There seems to be a trend of portraits of crazy women in Finnish cinema.

There is a fine sense of rhythm and tension in Silmäterä. The flow is compelling, the editing is assured. The sound design is captivating.

I like the natural, lively colour design in the cinematography. I have little to complain in the digital presentation. Only in the forest footage the limits of digital are displayed.

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