Saturday, March 31, 2012

Saunavieras / [A Sauna Guest]

Anssi Mänttäri: Saunavieras (2012) starring Kari Väänänen as Jalo Rautakumpu.

FI 2012. PC: Riskifilmi Oy / Anssi Mänttäri. P+D+SC: Anssi Mänttäri. Poems by Einari Vuorela, William Shakespeare. DP: Dave Berg - DCP: Post Control. Camera: Mauri Lähdesmäki, Paavo Virtanen, Mikko Vähätalo. Lights: Tazu Ovaska, Sampo Laine, Kai Tuomola, Jussi Suokko. Make-up: Terhi Väänänen. M: Asko Mänttäri, with three new songs. Other compositions: "Song of the Indian Guest" ("Песня Индийского гостя") (Rimsky-Korsakov). "Pääskynen" ("La golondrina", 1862) (Narciso Serradell). S: Petri Varpiola, Matias Hakala. ED: Paavo Virtanen. P manager: Heikki Valkama. P secretary: Hanna Onttonen. Script supervisor: Joonas Ranta. Ass D: Sanna-Maari Tyysti. P coordinator: Vesa Hauhia. Loc: Sodankylä.
    C: Kari Väänänen (Jalo Rautakumpu, a best-selling author), Jone Takamäki (Hannu Nieminen, hitman), Ilkka Heiskanen (Ylermi), Raisa Vattulainen (Liisa), Anni Tani (Armi), Sampo Laine (1. taxi driver), Juha Tiuraniemi (2. taxi driver), Urpo Matero (3. taxi driver), Minttu Törmänen (hat check girl), Heikki Valkama (head waiter), Vesa Suomalainen (literary critic), Kaisu Petäjäniemi (companion), Hanna Onttonen (Mervi), Riitta Tauriainen (Jaana), Anssi Mänttäri (Tapsa), Katja Postila (porter), Joonas Ranta (barman), Raimo Mannermaa (customer), Jorma Karjalainen (customer).
    98 min.
    Distributed by Pirkanmaan Elokuvakeskus. No Swedish subtitles in the screening.
    2K DCP viewed at Kinopalatsi 8, Helsinki, 31 March 2012.

A modern parodistic variation of Don Giovanni and the Stone Guest.

Jalo Rautakumpu, a successful writer (Kari Väänänen) who publishes a popular novel every year, is about to start a relaxing evening in his retreat in the deep forest of Lapland when a stranger with the nondescript name of Hannu Nieminen appears at his home yard. Jalo invites Hannu to the sauna, and when he examines Hannu's clothes he finds the pockets empty.

Jalo and Hannu consume entire bottles of Koskenkorva vodka, and Hannu has to admit to Jalo, quoting Chico Marx, that "you are such a nice guy that I could kill you for nothing". Jalo has been seeing Ylermi's wife, the violent Ylermi has caught them in flagrante, and Ylermi has hired Hannu to assassinate Jalo.

Hannu promises Jalo to call the gig off, and after big cups of black coffee they take the taxi to the Luosto restaurant. Hannu is amazed to discover Jalo behaving like a male chauvinist pig of the worst kind, insulting and abusing every woman in the most disgusting way. Hannu even offers an apology to the nice hat check girl, but when on their departure Jalo renews his insults to her it is the last straw.

There is nothing uplifting in the story and its macabre male protagonists. There are moments of black comedy such as the vignette on the monstrous marriage of Ylermi and his wife. A highlight is when Hannu climbs to the roof of the Luostotunturi hotel to save Jalo by singing him a song. Hannu does not want Jalo to commit suicide or die by accident.

There is a lot of dialogue in the movie. Jalo detects in Hannu "a confidence which can only be based on money". "Matti Nykänen is the collective conscience of the people of Finland". "Money keeps coming from all doors and windows but all I want is respect".

Jalo is proud to be compared with animals such as the blackcock and the male reindeer, but the animal he really resembles is a pig. Jalo's old school macho pig attitudes belong to the pre-Women's Lib era (topical in Mad Men).

There is a confident drive in the narration. The hitman is realistically believable. The viewer feels that Anssi Mänttäri has made this movie because he had to.

Saunavieras has been produced outside all the regular movie and tv production structures of Finland. Until last year Mänttäri worked with his trusted, talented cinematographer Heikki Katajisto, and his low budget films shot on 35 mm looked good. Since his switch to video and digital things have changed.

The magnificent autumn colours of Lapland in September could be an important counterforce in a story like this, and a better visual quality would have helped Saunavieras. Now the visual quality is uneven, with most scenes passable, but some shots should have been retaken.

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