Saturday, January 16, 2021


Juuso Syrjä: Karalahti (FI 2021).

FI 2021 © Solar Films. P: Jukka Helle, Ida Kallio, Rimbo Salomaa, Markus Selin.
    D: Juuso Syrjä. Cin: Matti Eerikäinen. SC: Mika Karttunen, Joona Louhivuori. S: Kyösti Väntänen.
    A portrait documentary about Jere Karalahti.
    Non-fiction footage has been edited together with staged enactments.
    Featuring: Jere Karalahti, his family and friends, and Pentti Lindegren, Jonna Levola, Jari Aarnio, Kalervo Kummola, Markus Selin, Mikael Granlund, Erkka Westerlund, Pentti Matikainen, Harri Hakkarainen, Doug Shedden, Veijo Hietala, Rita Tainola, Jeff Mocher, Juuso Pulliainen, Eetu Pöysti, Semir Ben-Amir, Andy Murray, Jukka-Pekka Vuorinen, Petteri Sihvonen, Petri Matikainen, Arto Nyberg.
    117 min
    Premiere: 5 Feb 2021 – released by Nordisk Film.
    Corona emergency security: max 20 capacity, face masks, distancing, hand hygiene.
    Viewed at Finnkino Strand 2 without Swedish subtitles, Lappeenranta, 16 Jan 2021

AA: Jere Karalahti (born 1975) is a controversial Finnish ice hockey defenceman who during his professional career in 1993–2016 played for teams in Finland, United States, Germany, Belarus and Sweden – for HIFK, Los Angeles Kings, Nashville Predators, Oulun Kärpät, Hamburg Freezers, Blues, HC Dinamo Minsk, Jokerit and HV71.

Karalahti proved to be a world class player, but simultaneously the hero transformed into a monster. Karalahti developed multiple dangerous addictions: to alcohol, hard drugs and gambling, and got involved with organized crime and drug smuggling. Refusing withdrawal treatment and getting in trouble with the law he failed a golden chance with the NHL. Karalahti has a loving mother and his father is a policeman, both always supportive. He has a stable circle of friends since his childhood in the Tapulikaupunki district of Helsinki. The mystery of his dangerous addictions remains.

Karalahti's life follows a multiple rise-and-fall-and-rise scenario. Having lost everything, Karalahti starts anew, and even having had to change to another team or another country, he soon again displays exceptional talent as a team builder. He exercises indefatigably, reads the game, has the right attitude, transforms the team with his presence and leads it to victory. He also has a magic touch with fans and the audience.

The nadir in his story is a trip with "Tapulivesi", "Tapuli water", referring to his childhood neighbourhood Tapulikaupunki: 80% vodka drunk from a flower pot. After months of Tapulivesi, and a couple of weeks of pure spiritus fortis, Karalahti no longer has a hangover but a near death condition. He is treated in the emergency room in coma, put into a respirator, his pancreas permanently damaged. It is exceptional to survive this, but a medical miracle takes place. Karalahti has to learn to walk again, run again, go to the gym again, and play hockey again. He still makes it to the top.

"People say you're a good guy. I don't see it". Karalahti betrays his fellow players repeatedly and can be viciously brutal in the rink. He is no role model, but a horrific warning example. Doctor's orders are not to drink except a couple of glasses of wine every second weekend. After his ice hockey career, Karalahti starts a new life with a new family and now runs a day care center. He says he has no regrets, but admits that there are things in the past that won't stand the light of the day.

In terms of recent Finnish portrait documentaries of sport legends, Karalahti is the opposite of the clean-cut heroes of Kuningas Litmanen and Selänne (about Teemu Selänne). He is the outlaw, the anti-hero, and in this sense at home in the Solar Films studio profile that includes Häjyt, Pahat pojat and Matti (about Matti Nykänen).

Like Nykänen, Karalahti provided tabloid fodder for decades with his rampages. To what extent did scandal media fuel Karalahti's addictions, excesses and misfortunes? This is an aspect the movie does not discuss.

Juuso Syrjä directs the movie with a brisk, dynamic touch. He is an experienced director of commercials (also in California), music videos (Bomfunk MC's, Darude), the Cook It Raw television show and the Nordic Noir series Sorjonen / Border Town (released in 180 countries). He has also directed the witty children's animation Ella & Aleksi – Surprise Birthday Party, one of my favourite Finnish films of the 2010s.

Karalahti is not a straight documentary. Karalahti is an unreliable narrator, and during his blackouts he has suffered memory loss. The end credits state that dramatizations have been staged, but we don't know what is fiction and what is not. The account of the long inferno trip to addiction has affinities with Joonas Neuvonen and Sadri Cetinkaya's death voyage movie Lost Boys.

The magic of Karalahti's playing is the raison d'être of the tale, but the film does not really convey the epic grandeur of Karalahti's legendary ice-hockey matches.




Karalahti-dokumentti on rehellinen kertomus kovapäisestä suomalaisesta selviytyjästä ja kiekkoilijasta, Jere Karalahdesta, joka jakaa mielipiteitä. Elokuvaan on Jeren lisäksi haastateltu yli 50 henkilöä, kuten perhettä, valmentajia, toimittajia, joukkuetovereita, poliiseja, lääkäreitä ja lapsuudenkavereita kotikulmilta Helsingin Tapulikaupungista.

Elokuva paljastaa Karalahden peliurasta ja sen taustoista asioita, joita ei ole kerrottu aiemmin ja näyttää, kuinka Tapulikaupungin pihalätkää rakastavan pikkupojan tie on kulkenut SM-liigasta maailman kovimpaan ammattilaisliigaan NHL:ään ja äärettömän kuluttavaan KHL:ään.

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