Friday, August 04, 2017


FI © 2017 Helsinki-Filmi.
Directed by Zaida Bergroth    
Screenplay: Zaida Bergroth, Jan Forsström – from an original idea by: Kaarina Hazard, Leea Klemola
Produced by Miia Haavisto
Music by Matthias Petsche    
Cinematography by Henri Blomberg ... (as Hena Blomberg)
Film Editing by Samu Heikkilä    
Production Design by Okku Rahikainen    
Costume Design by Tiina Kaukanen    
Marjut Samulin ...  makeup designer
Micke Nyström ...  sound designer
Jan Forsström ...  music supervisor
Krista Kosonen ... Angela
Sonja Kuittinen ... Anna
Alex Anton ... Timi
Juhan Ulfsak ... Eduard
Christian Lindroos ... Jakke
Kristian Smeds     ... Mertsi
Pirkko Hämäläinen ... Junell
Juha Lehtola ... Korhonen
    Released by Nordisk Film on DCP with Swedish subtitles, premiere 4 Aug 2017.
    Viewed at Kinopalatsi 9, 4 Aug 2017

Zaida Bergroth is one of Finland's most highly regarded film directors known for noteworthy shorts and the features Skavabölen pojat / Last Cowboy Standing and The Good Son. Bergroth's third feature film Miami has opened to excellent reviews and is her best work to date.

Despite the title we never get to Miami. Miami is the dream world of Angela the show dancer, the land of happiness to which she yearns to escape after the dreary treadmill of a working girl in Finland.

Miami the land of the sun is the counter-image to the autumnal Finland in which the sisters' road trip takes place. We move from Southern Finland towards the Eastern border and from there to Lapland and Helsinki. Winter is coming by the end of the story.

Bergroth's forte has always been the direction of actors. She casts exciting actors and encourages them to powerful performances.

The experienced Krista Kosonen is one of Finland's top actors, and the role of Angela gives her an opportunity to create something different and unusual. This is a nuanced, complex and multi-layered performance. Beneath the dazzling surface glitter there is an assured and patient professional, but when we learn to know Angela better we realize the force of her self-destructive urge.

Sonja Kuittinen is a newcomer, and in her first big film role she, too, creates something surprising. From a shy bystander who naively admires her big sister emerges a steel-tempered mastermind of crime.

On one level Miami is the story of the half-sisters Angela and Anna. They come from a broken family, and they try to make sense of each other and their relationship during their rampage across Finland. Key aspects remain ambiguous, but we are left pondering certain disturbing hints such as the remark that their father had separated them when he had observed Angela keeping Anna's head under the water in the bathtub.

On the other hand Miami is a crime drama and a gangster film. Angela has been caught in a spiral of debt with a criminal gang, and although she seems like a professional, she has no business sense and does not realize what it means to have to pay a 20% monthly interest. She is being closely watched by thugs, and violent incidents belong to her daily life. So far she has been able to handle the thugs, but Angela is also an alcoholic, and one night she drives over an ex-gangster and kills him.

It is Anna who takes them to the next level. In cold blood Anna dumps the corpse to a pond. It is Anna who plans and realizes their new criminal business line: taping Angela's sex encounters and blackmailing the victims. In Lapland at the Saariselkä holiday resort the sisters also happen to tape a meeting of Minister Junell (Pirkko Hämäläinen) documenting her illegal collaboration with Eastern powers. Having cashed on this jackpot they finally have the money to break free from everything. Except that now an Eastern criminal organization, more ruthless than the native one, is after them.

The world of prostitution is conveyed elliptically, almost reminding us of the euphemisms of the age of the Production Code. But remarks about Reeperbahn, the TOR network of the deep internet, Imatra and Lappeenranta being key spots, and "private shows" as the major source of income let us know what is being meant.

Miami is a road movie, and for the self-destructive Angela it is a death trip. In the final ruse of the sisters in the hands of the Eastern mafia Angela escapes to the thin ice of the early winter of the Baltic sea, and the thugs fall through the ice into the sea. Anna gets a chance to start a getaway car full of money on her way to Miami while Angela vanishes into the horizon of the winter mist of the sea.

There is a religious current in the movie. Each night Angela reads her personal evening prayer. At Saariselkä she can connect with an Eastern orthodox businessman by opening a conversation on a holy icon. There is a significant sequence at the Temple of the Rock in Helsinki. In one of their show numbers the sisters sport angels' wings, and in the final big caper adventure their camouflages include a revivalist preacher and a burkha-clad Muslim. There is an element of self-deception and escapism in Angela's religion. But also an authentic dimension of transcendence. God exists despite everything.

The soundtrack is mostly relevant to the run-of-the-mill show music of Angela's bar circuit. Some selections are more poignant such as the following two extreme cases. Samantha Fox's "The Best Is Yet To Come" is heard when Angela retreats to drinking in the car at night while Anna is meeting her boyfriend Timi. J. S. Bach's Sonate 1 Es-Dur, BWV 525 is heard at the Temple of the Rock sequence.

I have had reservations about the digital quality of Bergroth's previous movies, but in this Winterreise the autumn colours, the chilly winter scenes, and the glitter of the sisters' shows are impressive and expressive. Hena Blomberg is the ace cinematographer.

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