Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Kansakunnan olohuone

The Living Room of the Nation. FI (c) 2008 Mouka Filmi. P: Sami Jahnukainen. D: Jukka Kärkkäinen. Video. 80 min. A Mouka Filmi videotape, English version, with English credits and subtitles by Aretta Vähälä. Viewed at DocPoint opening gala, Bio Rex, 20 Jan 2009. Presented by Jukka Kärkkäinen and Sami Jahnukainen with a performance of bad English and a fine a cappella song of A Thousand Roses. - The visual quality of the picture is modest, not far from surveillance video. - Erkko Lyytinen's programme text: "The Living Room of the Nation follows the lives of Finns in their holiest place, the living room. By comparing the protagonist Tero's life to the events taking place in the living rooms of the other characters, the viewer is given a unique window to an essential dimension of Finnishness - how we react to other people's problems and how we talk about our own. The film is a small-scale collection of manifestations of Finnishness. Tero seeks to untangle his relationship with the mother of his unborn child, and a reclusive man tries to sort out his own relationship to life. Their introverted worlds reflect something vulnerable and tender to the outside. It's better to say nothing and to keep things as they are, rather than seek to change and confront one's problems - revealing one's self is admitting weakness. The film combines all the traditional Finnish virtues: forced silence, enacted humility and artificial modesty." (Erkko Lyytinen, translated by Anna Volmari). - This is a feature film of several people who are not participating in active daily life, who have retired to their homes, who are almost outcasts, old, weak, sick, disabled, apathetic, mentally ill, etc. All are retired or unemployed. It has been quite a feat to approach them and record them on the video with such candour. This film belongs to the same tradition as On the Bowery, and such works carry the same ethical question: the human beings being documented reveal extremely private sides of their circumstances, but are we worthy of their trust? Is there enough dignity in us? - Aesthetically the film belongs to the school of Roy Andersson. - The humanity of the film is affecting, and at the same time I feel embarrassed having been such a voyeur. - AFTERWARDS I was reminded that the people appearing in the film were present in the gala evening, and they approved.

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