Friday, January 07, 2011

Rautaa rajan taa

[Metal Across the Border]. FI © 2010 Films, Inc. PC: Excelsa Film. P+D+SC: Kalle Kujala. DP: Sakke Kantasalo. S: Roni Kantis. ED: Jenni Kantis. Featuring: Amorphis, Hanoi Rocks (Mike Monroe, Andy McCoy), Korpiklaani, Sonata Arctica, Diablo, Dauntless. Stand-up comedian: Joni Koivuniemi. Interviewees: Jone Nikula, Tuomas Holopainen, Eicca Toppinen, Mauri Pekkarinen, Päivi Räsänen, Stefan Wallin. 90 min. A 35 mm Finnkino print without subtitles viewed at Cinema Orion (The Jussi Awards), Helsinki, 7 Jan 2011

A spoof documentary film about exporting Finnish heavy metal.

Heavy metal has been popular in Finland from the beginning, ca 1968, since the early days of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple. In Finland the harbingers were acts like Charlies and Apollo. Bands like Jig-Saw, Alwari Tuohitorvi, Kalevala, and Kummitus were influenced by heavy metal. Sleepy Sleepers (the future The Leningrad Cowboys) played some heavy metal numbers. Hanoi Rocks had a serious international following. Ego Trip and Sarcofagus were keepers of the flame. Stone, Waltari, Sentenced, and Amorphis started the serious new rise. Stratovarius, Children of Bodom, Impaled Nazarene, Nightwish, Sonata Arctica, Lordi, HIM, Timo Rautiainen & Niskalaukaus, Ajattara, Mokoma, Kotiteollisuus, Sapattivuosi were important acts. Finnish heavy metal has had a consistent international following since decades now.

Finnish heavy metal is a juicy topic for a film, but Rautaa rajan taa stays on the surface. Kalle Kujala acts like a clown, making a spoof Michael Moore act of himself, harassing people and events. Minister of Trade and Industry Mauri Pekkarinen, Minister for Culture Stefan Wallin, and Chairwoman of the Christian Democrats Päivi Räsänen are ridiculed. I hope Kalle Kujala would have rather chosen an all-out This Is Spinal Tap approach.

Myself, I'm not an expert, but I have listened to heavy metal on a man-of-the-street basis since 1968, and when I was seriously following the music video (1980-2004) I saw a lot of heavy metal videos and compilations. Taken literally, the lyrics are often ridiculous, and I think it is a good idea every now and then to ask how much sense does it make to promote devil worship. And what should one make of the Hitler salute in the end of the film, also prominent in the trailer. Without a sense of humour, however, the critics are likely to make themselves ridiculous, as happens to Päivi Räsänen here.

There is a digital video look in this picture, and mostly I had no quarrel with it.

I'm looking forward to better heavy metal documentaries.

PS 17 Jan 2011. Although an outsider in both, I am fond of both heavy metal and rap music. A year ago I was very interested to hear Mario Van Peebles deplore the current superficial stage of rap culture. (Instead of society the rappers get all worked up about shoes.) In The New York Review of Books (Jan 13-Feb 9, 2011), Dan Chiasson reviews a new tome called The Anthology of Rap (edited by Adam Bradley and Andrew DuBois, 867 pp.) and quotes Tricia Rose in her book The Hip Hop Wars: "Hip hop is not dead but it is gravely ill. The beauty and force of hip hop have been squeezed out, wrung nearly dry by the compounding factors of commercialism, distorted racial and sexual fantasy, oppression, and alienation".

The watchword in my opinion in the current development of both rap and heavy metal would be trivialization. In the great continuity of heavy metal the Gothic imagery is serious (though it may be simultaneously playful). Like horror movies, it deals with the great topics of death, madness, war, and destruction. It may be ludicrous and over the top but like in the Mexican day of the dead there is gravity underneath.

I would have expected Rautaa rajan taa to deal with trends of trivialization in heavy metal, the loss of gravity.

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