Quick Picks – Scandinavian Film Festival – Part 2

They Have Escaped

A haunting fairytale set against the grim and isolated Finnish countryside, They Have Escaped sees two troubled teens, 19-year-old army deserter Joni (Teppo Manner) and 17-year-old tearaway Raisa (Roosa Söderholm), flee from a halfway house and embark on a rambling cross-country journey of self-discovery

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Review by Rhys Graeme-Drury

They Have Escaped is a sombre and elegant portrait of troubled youth, in which both directionless teens feel trapped within a system that doesn’t cater for abnormality. Both a critique on society and an intimate character study, director J.P. Valkeapää extracts two brilliant performances from his leads; Manner’s portrayal of the monosyllabic Joni is great, but it’s the ghoulish Söderholm that really steals the show; with thick black eyeliner and piercing red lips, her compelling performance is almost ethereal in look and feel.

Thankfully, They Have Escaped doesn’t adhere too rigidly to the well-worn coming-of-age road trip template. Valkeapää punctuates their journey with nightmarish visions (or are they memories?) in order to steer this film into less familiar territory. Rather than stick to the road, Valkeapää’s film explores increasingly darker and surreal terrain as the duo delve deeper into the woods, and experiment with drugs; it’s in these sequences that Pietari Peltola’s striking cinematography makes for a visually stimulating experience that is daring and artistic in equal measure.

Unfortunately, this film loses steam after the first hour; Vakleapää reintroduces some sinister conflict before long, but there’s an unmistakeable lull during the middle third of this film. Bold, emotionally raw and often confronting, They Have Escaped mixes inventive filmmaking with powerful acting to deliver one of more memorable experiences from this years’ Scandinavian Film Festival.

Screening: Monday 27th July, 8:30pm. Cinema Paradiso, Northbridge.

The Grump

 Karukoski’s latest release succeeds as both a broad social satire, and also a touching story about tolerance and closing the generational gap.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Review by Courtney Loney

Finnish director Dome Karukoski returns to his comedy-of-bad-behaviour mode following the success of his 2013 drama Heart of a Lion and 2010 box office hit Lapland Odyssey with his latest feature film The Grump.

The Grump, adapted from a series of popular novels by Tuomas Kyrö, follows a stubborn and cantankerous 80-year-old farmer from rural Finland who is stuck in his own prehistoric values and attitudes, until his world comes crashing down, quite literally due to a tumble. Forced to move in with his sad-sack, city dwelling son, and overassertive daughter-in-law, he instantly butts heads with his relatives, which often leads to hilarious consequences. But there’s more to “the grump” – whose name is never revealed – than this couple originally thought, and likewise, he has a thing or two to learn from the younger generation.

Director of photography Pini Hellstedt crafts gorgeously lit scenes throughout, including several sepia-tinted, mist-filled flashbacks, and Karukoski ensures the well executed comedic elements also carry emotional weight, however, the film is eclipsed by legendary Finnish actor Antti Litja. Despite portraying a frustrating, somewhat unlikeable character, Litja always brings humour and warmth to his performance. Highly recommended, The Grump is an honest, funny and heartbreaking film that oozes Finish culture.

Screening: Sunday 26th July, 4:30pm. Cinema Paradiso, Northbridge.

Silent Hearts

In a society where we own the right to live, but not the right to die, Silent Hearts offers a heart-tugging angle on this paradox.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Review by Courtney Loney

Silent Heart
, directed by Bille August, is a superbly made, intimate Danish drama about the acceptance of assisted dying. When matriarch Esther (Ghita Nørby) falls terminally ill, she decides to bring three generations of her family to her peaceful farmhouse to enjoy a bittersweet weekend together before she makes her ultimate decision.

Right from the start, Silent Heart packs on the atmosphere; aided by the picture perfect Danish countryside, the tension builds gently throughout the initial greetings, until it’s almost unbearable. Nørby, already a Danish film star, pulls off a compelling performance as she portrays a very ill, yet strong-minded and determined woman. In fact, every character’s performance is convincing and raw; there’s so much drama taking place in such a claustrophobic setting, and August strives to present it with a painful sense of reality.

Of course, Silent Heart is not something to face in a negative frame of mind! It’s sad, sure, but far from being all grim; the script injects an appropriate amount of black humour from time to time. By the end, not only will the audience know the characters better, but the characters will know themselves better. Keep the tissue box near while watching this sombre, yet touching film!

Screening: Friday 24th July, 8:45pm. Cinema Paradiso, Northbridge.

Images courtesy of Palace Films & The Scandinavian Film Festival


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