Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Apeiron (in the presence of Maria Ruotsala)

Sampo Sarkola as Umbra
FI 2013.
Director: Maria Ruotsala
Screenplay: Maria Ruotsala, Leena Krohn (novel)
Cinematography: Kimmo Koskela
Editing: Ulrika Enckell
Set Design: Tiina Paavilainen
Costumes: Anu Gould
Sound: Olli Huhtanen, Mikko Oinonen, Sami Sarhamaa, Heikki Savolainen
Music: Miika Hyytiäinen
Cast: Sampo Sarkola, Irina Björklund, Niklas Groundstroem, Eeva Muilu, Elin Petersdottir, Katariina Lohiniva, Robert Enckell, Maria Heiskanen
Production: Koskela Art & Media House
Producer: Merja Ritola, Kimmo Koskela, Klaus Heydemann
Language: Swedish
Duration announced: 90 min, actually 96 min
    Paintings: Giotto. - Drawings: Escher. - Digital post: Post Control. - Troll VFX. - Locations: Helsinki. - Second unit: Dubai.
    2K DCP from Koskela Art & Media House with English subtitles by Mikko Lyytikäinen viewed at Cinema Lapinsuu, Sodankylä (Midnight Sun Film Festival), in the presence of Maria Ruotsala, 11 June 2014

Hannu Björkbacka (Sodankylä 2014 Festival Catalogue): "As a science fiction about good and evil, Maria Ruotsala’s Apeiron is an original and visually impressive version of Leena Krohn’s ”impossible to film” novel Umbra – silmäys paradoksien arkistoon."

"In a closed facility for dangerous cases, a researcher couple called Umbra and Iris (Sampo Sarkola, Irina Björklund) are monitoring their patients. Umbra is transforming into someone like his inmates. He does not want the child that Iris is about to have. Iris responds to this cynicism with the hope of new life. That is what she wants to offer also a self-destructive woman called Lucy (Eeva Muilu)."

"The adaptation detaches itself from the original work and takes off into another direction. Krohn’s accurate expression receives an equally thought out cinematic counterpart. What suddenly becomes visible in the sci-fi is the inner space of the mind – in the spirit of Kubrick, Tarkovsky and Lynch, but also Pasolini, Buñuel and Malick."

"As an art film, Apeiron surpasses the clichés of realism and genre by the freedom of surrealism and avant-garde. It has been made with love and not money, with thought and not effects, but it still fulfils the requirements of science fiction. The result is fabulous."

"Miika Hyytiäinen has composed the score which is full of rich elements. Among them, Daniel Schultz with his bright soprano rises above the rest." (Hannu Björkbacka, Sodankylä 2014 Festival Catalogue)

Maria Ruotsala, one of the most prominent Finnish contemporary artists, has been interested in the cinema for a long time and studied it professionally. Apeiron, inspired by a novel by Leena Krohn, is her first feature film.

Apeiron is image-driven, and a strong and original approach emerges in it. Impossible to classify, I was thinking about affinities with Expressionists and Surrealists, the nightmares in The Hour of the Wolf, the visit to the gallery in Vertigo. For a while I thought that it is futile and impossible to imitate Tarkovsky, but the film gets stronger towards the end: the images get more compelling and original.

Made on a very low budget, the financing came from Finland's Swedish-speaking television, and Swedish is not the mother's tongue for the director or the male lead. It is a distancing factor. Although screened on 2K DCP, the film often looks like it has been shot in low definition. Despite these limitations Apeiron is compelling.

It is a dystopian vision. The main location is an asylum for dangerous mental patients, and the leading couple are doctors there. We embark on a journey into madness, also into new kinds of madness. The work follows the doctors to their home, but "jag vill inte höra djävulens röst här hemma", "I don't want to hear the devil's voice here at home", states Irina to Sampo.

There is a woman who has become a circle (evoking la Grande Hystérie of the Salpêtrière days of Charcot, recently covered by Alice Vinocour in Augustine). There is a space traveller who has lost his mind and become a deranged violent criminal. The novel and the film are meditations about existence on our way to a Weltanschauung informed by quantum physics. They are meditations of "en större, ogripbar ordning", "a bigger, unfathomable order". The meaninglessness, the emptiness. On the journey to space nothing unexpected happened. "Where were you really?" There were no contures, no form. Where were you? Where you belong, on the other side of the big bang, on the arrow of time, in the wind of time.

During the last half an hour there are unforgettable visions: - "The woman without a face" (her face impressively disfigured, not quite an Elephant Woman). - The parallel woman to Irina Björklund. "I am the other woman whom you left alone in the night". - The boy beyond the mirror. - The visit to the gallery, to see the Adoration of the Magi by Giotto. - Sampo Sarkola trading places with an asylum inmate. - A theatre performances with a real rape about to be enacted in the presence of the woman's mother and brother. The auditorium turns into a lynch mob.

There is a cosmic sense with recurrent images of the sky, the space, the ocean. The sky is the ceiling in the final theatre sequence.

The music and the sound are impressive.

I look forward to seeing Apeiron again, and I look forward to more films from Maria Ruotsala.

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