Friday, September 11, 2020

Metsäjätti / Forest Giant


Ville Jankeri: Metsäjätti (2020). Hannes Suominen (Janne), Anu Sinisalo (Katariina), Jussi Vatanen (Pasi).

FI © 2020 Solar Films Inc. Oy. P: Rimbo Salomaa, Jukka Helle, Markus Selin.
    D: Ville Jankeri. SC: Ville Jankeri, Timo Turunen – based on the novel (2011) by Miika Nousiainen. DP: Aarne Tapola. Drone cinematography: BongoBongo, Skymotion Pictures. PD: Sattva-Hanna Toiviainen. Cost: Tiina Kaukanen. Makeup: Kaisa Pätilä. VFX: Tuomo Hintikka. M: Marko Nyberg. S: Janne JAnkeri. ED: Harri Ylönen.
    C: Jussi Vatanen (Pasi), Sara Soulié (Linda), Hannes Suominen (Janne), Anu Sinisalo (Katariina), Jari Virman (Antti), Rami Rusinen (Jonne), Tommi Korpela (factory director Virtasalmi), Iikka Forss (chief shop steward Kuisma), Anna-Riikka Rajanen (Tiina), Tomi Alatalo (Mauno), Matti Laine (Janne's father), Marjo Lahti (Janne's mother), Jarkko Pajunen (Raninen), Jalmari Honka (Pasi at 15), Samuli Hokkanen (Vesa), Jeremy Leskinen (Jonne at 15), Kuura Rossi (Pasi at 11), Eemeli Hölttä (Janne at 11), Reeta Vestman (Vesa's mother Sirpa), Jaana Saarinen (mayor), Matti Onnismaa (Järvinen), Philip Zandén (the new CEO), Aku Sipola (real estate agent), Terhi Suorlahti (consultant Sarita), Seppo Paajanen (Pellikka), Mikko Kaukolampi (Matti), Bruno Cacciatore (doctor), Tara Terno (Sofia). Voiceover: Santeri Kinnunen.
    Metallica Hämeenlinna 2019 concert at Kantola Event Park, 16 July 2019: James Hetfield (voc, gtr), Lars Ulrich (dr), Kirk Hammett (solo gtr), Robert Trujillo (bs). "For Whom The Bell Tolls" (Cliff Burton, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich). There was an audience of 55 000 at the concert.
    Theme song (during the final credits): "Meidän murusia" (comp. Lauri Tähkä, lyr. Timo Kiiskinen), perf. Tommi Läntinen.
    88 min
    Swedish subtitles: Frej Grönholm. English subtitles: Aretta Vähälä.
    Premiere: 11 Sep 2020 (120 venues), distributed by Nordisk Film.
    Viewed at Kinopalatsi 1, Helsinki, 11 Sep 2020 (Finnish subtitles for the hard-of-hearing).
    The title is a name of a fictional forest industry company.

AA: Everything is perfect in the life of Pasi (Jussi Vatanen). He has a great job as a business development manager at a huge forest industry company. A promotion is forthcoming. Pasi has a wonderful and beautiful wife, Linda (Sara Soulié), who is expecting a baby. They are about to move to the tallest building in Finland, the Majakka Tornitalo / "The Lighthouse".

There is a test before the promotion. Pasi must visit a plywood factory at the (fictional) municipality of Törmälä and fire a lot of people. The factory is very profitable but not enough for the company. The humiliation of the test lies in the fact that Törmälä is Pasi's home village. He must fire people whom he has known since childhood.

That is just for starters. After Pasi has dutifully executed the layoffs, he proceeds to put into action an initiative of the factory stalwarts to develop a railway to make the logistics more profitable. The Left Alliance appears as "the No Party" that opposes all initiatives favourable to business. With the Social Democrats compromise is possible, and they win the election. On the same day, the company announces that the factory will be closed. The company has been trimmed down to become more valuable in a transnational merger.

The most memorable chapter in the movie is Pasi's media training. Communication agencies may seem a phenomenon of our times, but they are reminiscent of the schools of rhetorics and sophists in Classical Greece (against whom Socrates taught, because they had no commitment to truth, only winning the argument).

Having been thoroughly prepped in media training, Pasi is interviewed at the press conference where the closing of the factory is announced. The company bosses are aghast when they watch the tv news. Against the instructions, Pasi tells the truth that the factory has been very profitable, but owners want even bigger profits.

Next day, summoned to the board meeting, Pasi expects to be fired. Instead, he is offered a very big promotion. But he resigns with an offensive farewell hand sign.

I have not read the novel, but the film is reportedly faithful to it, with some changes. As different from the novel, Pasi's immediate superior is a woman, Katariina (Anu Sinisalo). This film seems to imply that women in power can be as terrible as men.

The other major change is the ending: the movie, in contrast to the novel, has a happy ending. Pasi buys the factory and continues production. This ending has been criticized, but I like it like it is. First of all, I am a Kracauerian: I prefer open endings in films, "the final image should show an open road or a window with a view to the sky".

Happy ending is the second best alternative. You don't have to believe in it. Nothing is more devastating than a certain kind of melodrama happy ending. But there is no irony in Metsäjätti's happy ending. We are living in a pandemic year, and terrible things happen. At the same time, everybody knows that change is imminent. Crisis is a new possibility.

Metsäjätti is an entertainment film, and I feel good that it gives a message of hope. Forest industry is an industry of the past but also an industry of the future because there are hundreds of untapped possibilities in biochemical industries based on wood.

Critics have noticed that Metsäjätti has a story "ripped from today's headlines" although the novel is nine years old. When the film came to the premiere the closing of the Kaipola factory by the forest giant UPM was in the headlines, in circumstances similar with the movie.

There is more to the background. The Milton Friedman – Margaret Thatcher gospel of monetarism that became fashionable in the 1970s (both Friedman and Thatcher were personal friends of Augusto Pinochet) is being questioned by an increasing number of adherents of capitalism. The prestigious Business Roundtable decided last year to withdraw from shareholder primacy. The world is changing, and the change does not obey conventional party lines. To me, the ending of Metsäjätti the movie reflects that.

The film director is Ville Jankeri, who impressed me with his debut feature film Pussikaljaelokuva. He managed to make an intriguing, engaging, rolling film from an unfilmable novel. It was a Finnish I vitelloni. It was not story-driven, it was character-driven, and Jankeri is a talented director of actors.

Metsäjätti is story-driven, the story is engrossing, it has been popular both as a novel and in the theatre, and it concerns everybody in Finland. But the movie is not electrifying, it lacks adrenaline. Jankeri is a master of the laid back, but in this movie we should feel a dramatic punch.

Jussi Vatanen gives a performance in extremely laconic mode. He has a poker face, but we can feel the pain inside. In the beginning, he is facing a great future of happiness and success, but we feel an absence.

I was thinking about Robert De Niro as Frank Sheeran in The Irishman. During the long ride from Philadelphia to the airport Sheeran realizes that he is expected to assassinate Jimmy Hoffa, whose closest ally, bodyguard and right hand man he is. During that ride Sheeran dies inside, and he never finds himself again. In the finale he leaves the door open, but nobody is coming, not even hitmen.

I'm also thinking about Vatanen's recent performances. Napapiirin sankarit 3 : Quest: in search for himself. Result: he fails. The latest adaptation of The Unknown Soldier: the most coveted role of the Finnish screen, Koskela; his interpretation the best that I have seen. Vatanen conveys the inferno of the final summer of 1944 at Kannas with laconic dignity. Koskela would know how to maximize the effort to thwart and contain the offensive of the overwhelming Red Army, but the insane orders of our own clueless and panicked commanders are impossible to process. Koskela sacrifices himself for his country and fellow soldiers.

Pasi fails to engage his devoted wife Linda into his existential quandary, but perhaps the happy ending spells well for happiness at home, too. That's how the arch of the drama is written, but the final turn is not overwhelmingly compelling, because conviction is missing from Jankeri and Vatanen.

A performance of quiet strength is given by Tommi Korpela. Miska Rantanen, the critic of Helsingin Sanomat, writes that Korpela "would be impressive even as a traffic sign, but also the role of the factory director trapped between the rock and the hard place he conveys with perfection".

Metsäjätti is a good and rewarding film, but a bit more dramatic panache would be welcome.



 Gaudeamus Igitur
es. Ylioppilaat
säv. / san. trad.

Små grodorna
es. Sara Soulié
säv. / san. trad.

Sylvian joululaulu
es. Ringa Manner
säv. Karl Collan
san. Zacharias Topelius
sov. Marko Nyberg & Ville Riippa

Keski-Suomen kotiseutulaulu (Hembygdssång)
es. Jussi Vatanen & Hannes Suominen
säv. Ivar Widéen
san. Linnéa Andrén
suom. san. Martti Korpilahti
© Gehrmans Musikförlag AB

Eppu Normaali
säv. Mikko Syrjä
san. Mikko Saarela  
© Jee-Jee Music Oy
Ⓟ 1980 Poko Records Oy

säv. & san. J. Hetfield, L. Ulrich
© Creeping Death Music / Universal Music Publishing AB
Ⓟ 2017 Blackened Recordings, under exclusive licence to
Universal International Music BV

For Whom the Bell Tolls
säv. & san. C. Burton, J. Hetfield, L. Ulrich
© Creeping Death Music / Universal Music Publishing AB

Meidän murusia
Tommi Läntinen
Säv. Lauri Tähkä
San. Timo Kiiskinen  
Sov. Aki Sihvonen / Tommi Läntinen / Lauri Tähkä / Timo Kiiskinen
© Raikuli Production / Kaiho Publishing / EMP Elements Music Publishing & Warner/Chappell Music Finland Oy
Tuotanto, äänitys ja miksaus: Aki Sihvonen / Finnvox studiot
Masterointi: Pauli Saastamoinen / Finnvox studiot
A&R: Gabi Hakanen / Vallila Music House
Ⓟ 2020 Vallila Music House Oy


Ylennys mielessään Pasi ottaa vastaan tehtävän tehostaa vaneritehtaan toimintaa synnyinseudullaan. Asiat mutkistuvat, kun Pasi (Jussi Vatanen) kohtaa tehtaalla lapsuudenystävänsä Jannen (Hannes Suominen). Ennen kuin tehtaan kohtalo on selvillä, kuunnellaan metallia, tehdään politiikkaa, punnitaan ystävyys ja kohdataan menneisyys. Ehtii Pasi perustaa perheenkin Lindan (Sara Soulié) kanssa. Metsäjätti perustuu Miika Nousiaisen samannimiseen menestysromaaniin.

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