Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
George Constantin on December 4, 2010
Icon presents a film written and directed by
Screenplay by Jalmari
and Juuso Helander
Onni Tommila, Per Christian Ellefsen, Peeter Jakobi, Tommi Korpela,
Jorma Tommila, Ilmari Jarvenpaa.
December 2, 2010 (limited)
is unlike any Christmas tale you have seen or likely to see for a very
long time. This entirely original, one of a kind film directed by
Finnish filmmaker Jalmari Helander is a finely balanced blend of horror,
suspense thriller, fantasy, and black humour.
On Christmas Eve, American archaeologist Riley (Per Christian Ellefsen)
is excavating in the Korvatunturi mountains in a remote region of
Finland when he stumbles across a large burial mound, and an unconscious
naked old man found in a wolf trap (Peeter Jakobi). Soon afterwards,
strange things begin to occur in and around the small village where 10
year boy Pietari (Onni Tommila) lives with his single father Rauno (Jorma
Tommila). These include the mutilation of a reindeer and the
disappearance of a number of children, which includes Pietari's best
friend Juuso (Ilmari jarvenpaa). Who is this wild, ugly hairy old man
who's been kept under close watch by a group of hunters? He looks
nothing like a 'Coca-Cola Santa' as the young Pietari calls him. And who
on earth are these strange elf-like creatures who seem hell bent on
rescuing the old man from his captors?
The film has a number of twists and turns, and Helander saves the best
for last, and (for those unfamiliar with his previous works), an
explanation of what the title stands for. While somewhat slow at times,
the finale is well worth the wait. Among the all-male cast, Tommila is
superb as the child protagonist Pietari, easily stealing every scene.
Jakobi, too, is outstanding as the menacing and mysterious old man of
the mountains, and so is veteran stage actor Ellefson as the enigmatic
: A Christmas Tale is Helander's first feature film which he
based on two earlier shorts that have developed a cult following on the
Internet – Rare Exports: The Official Safety Instructions (2005),
and Rare Exports Inc (2003). This feature adaptation is
guaranteed to please the most hardcore of this filmmaker's growing
legion of fans, and is particularly notable for cinematographer Mika
Orasmaa’s superb camera work; some of the snow vistas are among the most
stunning ever filmed.
The film is entertaining and provides a much darker, yet amazingly
refreshing take on Christmas, told from a 'twisted' Finnish perspective
in the tradition of the great Finnish filmmaker, Aki Kaurismaki, and
while Helander was clearly attempting to subvert the spirit of
Christmas, he doesn’t rip it apart so much and just giving it a wink and
a nudge. The film is rated M for some full-frontal male nudity and
highly recommended to audiences tired of re-runs of It's a Wonderful
Life and White Christmas. If you enjoyed Bad Santa,
this is definitely one for you.