Friday, June 14, 2024

Epäonnistunut tyhjyys / Failed Emptiness


Mika Taanila: Epäonnistunut tyhjyys / Failed Emptiness (FI 2024). 

DIRECTOR: Mika Taanila
COUNTRY: Finland
YEAR: 2024
DURATION: 66 min
LANGUAGES: Finnish, subtitled in English
CATEGORY: Finnish Films, New Finnish Films, Puhuttu tai tekstitetty suomeksi, Subtitles in English
Festival premiere: 25 Jan-4 Feb 2024 International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR).
In the presence of Mika Taanila and Nika Son, hosted by Juhana von Bagh.
Viewed at The School, Sodankylä, Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF), 14 June 2024

Olaf Möller (MSFF 2024): " In the beginning, Failed Emptiness was supposed to be a cycle of short films – cinematic epigrams, melancholic anecdotes about the inherent strangeness of life simply passing by, made eerie through the exclusive use of black-and-white thermal cinematography. But at some point, after two of these having gotten realized, filmmaker-artist Mika Taanila and poet supreme Harry Salmenniemi felt that the project should get reconsidered, with sound artist Nika Son invited as a third voice. And thus, they embarked on one final work, feature-length this time, that would offer more breathing space. "

" The artistic concept (similar to that of their earlier collaboration Tectonic Plate, 2016) remained the same as for the shorts: All is told in images and sounds plus written poetry on monochrome ground – no spoken words, no dialogue etc. – Antonioni squared, modernity pushed to its limits, even partly dangling over the abyss of an unknown morrow of mores and aesthetics not yet quite imaginable. The way Taanila looks at the world, the woman, and her doings paints them as important and enigmatic as the old turtle doing its thing or the cleaning robot going through its motions; the soundscape suggests parallel worlds near as well as far. One would assume that the story is that of the woman we see going through the rituals and routines of her life, but it could be somebody else as well. Yours, for example. " Olaf Möller

AA: After the remarkable Mannerlaatta / Tectonic Plate, another major collaboration between Mika Taanila and the poet Harry Salmenniemi. In Sodankylä, Mika Taanila took the floor together with the composer-sound designer Nika Son.

The visual world and the soundscape clash seamlessly to create a dizzying experience in a space that no one has entered before.

It is beyond reality and unreality, beyond consciousness and the unconscious, beyond dream and awakening. 

It is not psychedelia. Our senses are alert, but we move in an uncharted mental landscape.

An extra-cinematic event took place in the beginning: the third fainting spell of the day. The heat of the midnight sun and the insufficient air conditioning of the school classroom may have contributed.

Some experimental films can cause nausea, migraine and fainting, but this accident was not the movie's fault, although somehow it became meaningful in the performance.

Ostranenie. The film is about the ordinary turning extraordinary.

Through the fascinating black-and-white thermal cinematography by Jussi Eerola.

Through the inventive and creative musique concrète of Nika Son.

Through the unique poetry of Harry Salmenniemi. I have loved Salmenniemi's poetry since Texas, sakset, Runojä and Kivirivit, also his contributions in Vastakaanon.

Salmenniemi is at his best in Epäonnistunut tyhjyys. I laughed quietly all through the picture. His lines are terse, matter-of-fact, to the point. They express the most ordinary issues. Yet always with a slight twist, almost unnoticeable, until there is a cumulative impact.

Lola Rogers is a wonderful translator, one of the best. The English translation is immaculate, but the finest aroma of the poetry and the sense of humour are lost in translation. Nobody could succeed with words with multiple meanings like "läpikuultava naapuri".

The sense of humour has affinities with Jacques Tati (Mon oncle, Playtime, Trafic).

Reportedly Harry Salmenniemi calls this work an "existential thriller".

There was a discussion after the movie about the meaning of its title. I proposed that it means "plenitude". Like in Jim Jarmusch's Paterson, where Paterson (Adam Driver) has lost his poetry notebook. A Japanese traveller gives him a new notebook and states that "an empty page is full of possibilities". He also remarks that "poetry in translation is like taking a shower with a raincoat on".

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