Saturday, September 10, 2022

Veden vartija / Memory of Water

Saara Saarela: Veden vartija / Memory of Water (FI 2022) starring Saga Sarkola.

Minnet av vatten.
    FI/DE/NO/EE 2022 Oy Bufo Ab / Pandora Film / Allfilm OÜ / Mer Film. P: Misha Jaari, Mark Lwoff.
    D: Saara Saarela. SC: Ilja Rautsi – based on the novel Teemestarin kirja (2012) by Emmi Itäranta, in English: Memory of Water. Cin: Kjell Lagerroos – scope. PD: Otso Linnalaakso. Cost: Tiina Kaukanen. Makeup: Kaire Hendrikson. VFX: Thomas Loeder. SFX: Kristjan Pütsep. Choreography: Keisy Põldsam. M: Volker Bertelmann. "Šiella" and "Boares Gietkka" comp+perf Ulla Pirttijärvi. S: Andreas Hildebrandt. ED: Jussi Rautaniemi.
    C: Saga Sarkola (Noria), Mimosa Willamo (Sanja), Lauri Tilkanen (Taro), Pekka Strang (Major Bolin), Minna Haapkylä (Lian), Kheba Touray (Mikoa), Lyydia Mörä (Minja), Yuko Takeda (the supervising tea master), Ulla Pirttijärvi (the Sami woman), Erol Mintas (doctor), Tommi Eronen (father).
    101 min
    Finnish premiere 2 Sep 2022, distributed by B-Plan Distribution, international distribution by The Match Factory GmbH, English subtitles by Samuli Kauppila, Swedish subtitles by Michaela Palmberg.
    Viewed at Finnkino Strand 2, Iso Kristiina, Lappeenranta, 10 Sep 2022.

Official synopsis: "Puhdas vesi on loppumassa maailmasta, ja valtaa pitävä sotilashallinto kontrolloi niukkoja vesivaroja tiukalla otteella. Vesipulan keskellä sinnittelevän kylän uusi teemestari Noria (Saga Sarkola) saa isänsä kuoltua selville sukunsa tarkoin varjellun salaisuuden: erämaassa on säilynyt puhtaan juomaveden lähde. Kun Norialle selviää, että myös saastuneilta Menetetyiltä mailta saattaisi löytyä vettä, hänen on päätettävä, mitä hän hengenvaarallisella tiedolla tekee."

"Periksiantamattoman Norian tukena ovat paras ystävä Sanja (Mimosa Willamo) ja vesipulaa ratkova Taro (Lauri Tilkanen), mutta voiko heihin luottaa? Salaako sotilashallinto kansalta enemmänkin vesivaroja – voiko yksi ihminen pelastaa maailman kuivuudelta?"

"Pitkälle tulevaisuuteen sijoittuva Saara Saarelan ohjaama dystooppinen suurelokuva perustuu Emmi Itärannan moderniin klassikkoon Teemestarin kirja (2012)

AA: Directed by Saara Saarela, Memory of Water, based on the internationally acclaimed novel by Emmi Itäranta, is a magnificent dystopian science fiction epic with striking production values, eloquent cinematography, and an enchanting music and sound world (spiced with Sami ingredients). The cast is top drawer, with the luminous Saga Sarkola as the fearless protagonist. There is something of the feeling of the Hunger Games series in this film, including casting a young woman as the saviour of the world.

Science fiction is not one of the mainstays of Finnish cinema, but there is a native tradition even in this genre, with achievements such as Avaruusraketilla rakkauteen (Zurück aus dem Weltall / [Back from the Universe], George Freedland, 1958), Ruusujen aika / The Time of the Roses (Risto Jarva, 1969), MP – minä pelkään / I'm Scared (Pekka Hyytiäinen, 1982), 250 Grams – A Radioactive Testament (Pirjo Honkasalo & Pekka Lehto, 1983) and W (Anna Eriksson, 2022). My favourite of the earlier films is Maria Ruotsala's Apeiron (2013) based on the novel by Leena Krohn, starring Saga Sarkola's brother Sampo Sarkola. Of earlier dystopian films, Mika Kaurismäki's The Last Border (1993) comes close to the themes of the Memory of Water, but it is completely different, belonging to the Mad Max inspired cycle of post-apocalyptic action films.

In Memory of Water, each ingredient is brilliant, but perhaps as a consequence of the pandemic circumstances of the huge production, the inner drive is not as irresistible and compelling as it would have been had the film had been created in normal times.


Mielensäpahoittaja Eskorttia etsimässä / The Grump: In Search of an Escort

Mika Kaurismäki: Mielensäpahoittaja Eskorttia etsimässä / The Grump: In Search of an Escort (FI 2022), starring Heikki Kinnunen.

Kverulanten söker Eskort.
    FI/DE 2022 Solar Films Inc. Oy / Cuckoo Clock Entertainment GmbH. P: Markus Selin, Jukka Helle, Hanna Virolainen, Raoul Reinert.
    D: Mika Kaurismäki. SC: Daniela Hakulinen, Tuomas Kyrö – based on the novel (2019) by Tuomas Kyrö. Cin: Jari Mutikainen – scope. Drone cin: David Brickhill-Jones, Teppo Salonen. AD: Tuomas Kyrö, Pouya Mirzaei. Cost: Anna Vilppunen, Anette Schröder. Makeup: Marjut Samulin. Hair: Aune Peeterman. VFX of drowning the Ford Escort: Jari Nenonen. M: Anssi Tikanmäki, Eemil Tikanmäki, Eljas Tikanmäki. S: Pekka Karjalainen. ED: Markus Leppälä. C:
    Mielensäpahoittaja / The Grump – Heikki Kinnunen
    Tarmo – Kari Väänänen
    Hessu – Iikka Forss
    Liisa – Mari Perankoski
    Pekka – Ville Tiihonen
    Katri – Tiina Lymi
    Maria – Rosalie Thomass
    Otto – Samu Haber
    Larsson – Pekka Strang
    109 min
    Finnish premiere: 9 Sep 2022, distributed by Oy Nordisk Film Ab, Swedish subtitles by Frej Grönholm.
    Viewed at Finnkino Strand 4, Iso Kristiina, Lappeenranta, 10 Sep 2022.

Official synopsis: "Mielensäpahoittajan arki rullaa tuttujen rutiinien mukaan: kevät on tullut ja varhaisperunasato kypsyy. Mielensäpahoittaja kuitenkin kolaroi rakkaan Eskorttinsa ja auto täytyy romuttaa. Uusi, nykyaikainen kulkuneuvo ei käy laatuun ja lähin Eskortti vuosimallia 1972 löytyy Saksasta. Kun Mielensäpahoittajan pojat kieltäytyvät auttamasta, on hänen matkustettava Saksaan yksin."

"Mielensäpahoittaja tarvitsee Hampuriin saavuttuaan veljensä Tarmon apua. He eivät ole olleet tekemisissä vuosikymmeniin. Tarmo, joka on Mielensäpahoittajan täydellinen vastakohta, lupaa auttaa veljeään Eskortin etsinnässä. Auton etsinnän lomassa mutkaisen matkan varrella kaivetaan esiin veljesten väliset vanhat ja uudet kuopat."

"Mielensäpahoittaja Eskorttia etsimässä on lämminhenkinen elokuva sukupolvien kohtaamisesta vuosien jälkeen."

"The Grump’s daily life rolls along his familiar routines: spring has arrived and the early potato crop is almost ready. The Grump however crashes his beloved Ford Escort, and the car must be scrapped. A new, modern vehicle is out of the question, and the nearest ’72 Escort can only be found from Germany. When the Grump’s sons refuse to help him, the Grump has to travel to Germany alone."

"When the Grump arrives in Hamburg, he needs help from his brother, Tarmo. The brothers have not been in touch with each other in decades. Tarmo, who is the exact opposite to the Grump, promises to help his brother find the Escort. As they navigate the bumps in the road in search of the car, old and new disagreements between the brothers flare up."

"The Grump: In Search of an Escort is a warm-spirited film about family meeting after many years."

AA: Based on the popular character created by the author Tuomas Kyrö originally for the radio, and subsequently a series of novels, a successful motion picture franchise has emerged.

Themes of the Grump phenomenon include the generation gap, urbanization, a satire of living in "the good old days" of the past, and the deep transformation of gender roles. We laugh at the Grump but we can look in the mirror and learn lessons about the past including sustainability, living in harmony with nature, and a culture of "trust thy neighbour".

In The Grump (2014), director Dome Karukoski created a work that resonates in film history with classics including Leo McCarey's Make Way for Tomorrow, Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story and Alexander Payne's About Schmidt.

Happier Times, Grump (2018), directed by Tiina Lymi, introduced new, emotionally rich dimensions, starting with the death of the Grump's wife and a catastrophic funeral and memorial sequence and ending with the birth of the Grump's first great-grandchild.

In The Grump: In Search of an Escort, directed by Mika Kaurismäki, the saga expands geographically into Germany. We meet the Grump's brother Tarmo who has become an international nomad while the Grump remained at the home farm.

In a parallel story we follow the fates of the Grump's two sons. Iikka Forss and Mari Perankoski have interpreted the son Hessu and his wife Liisa in all films. Ville Tiihonen and Tiina Lymi are new actors as the son Pekka and his wife Katri. In Germany the Grump discovers a niece, Marie (Rosalie Thomass) and her five year old son.

In each story we meet crisis. The Grump's Ford Escort crashes. Pekka is fired. Hessu's children are so glued to their smartphones that they ignore everything else. Tarmo has been a negligent father and his daughter does not want to have anything to do with him.

The Grump: In Search of an Escort is a work of wish-fulfillment. There is a neat solution to each crisis. It is feelgood entertainment, and judging by the atmosphere in the screening I visited I predict it will be a success.

Missing is the aching sense of loss of the previous Grump films, to speak nothing about McCarey, Ozu and Payne.

But, more than before, Mika Kaurismäki injects a subtle sense of humour in the narrative. There are jokes and funny scenes, but more interestingly, there is an inherent humoristic dimension all around.

For the road movie veteran Mika Kaurismäki, the scope format is natural, enhanced by effective drone footage in Hamburg and a poignant scene of the drowning of the resurrected Ford Escort. "Vanhan vaahteran laulu" ["The Song of the Old Maple Tree"] (comp.+lyr. Eino Partanen), sung by Veikko Tuomi in 1952, is a perfect soundtrack choice. Such songs were listened by the generations that survived the war.