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As spring splutters into life it must be time for a Scandinavian Christmas movie, right? But there is about as much Christmas cheer going on here as the ISIS bingo might in late December! Director Jelmari Helander flips the tale of St Nicolas on its head with this enjoyable Nordic fairytale as the real Santa Clause comes out to play in this quirky Finish film. T
Little Pietari (Onni Tommila) and his father Rauno (Jorma Tommila) live a hard life up on the icy edge of the Artic Circle in northern Finland. Their mother is no longer around and the mood between the two is low. The Inuit community in which they dwell farm reindeer for a living and with a month to go until Christmas they prepare to round them up for the dinner plate. There is no sentimental Christmas spirit up here when it comes to survival.
Above the wintry valley they call home there is a mysterious drilling excavation going on, an eccentric English scientist, Dr Riley (Per Christian Ellefsen), planning to blast a hole in the top of a nearby mountain to recover something. Little Pietari and his best friend Aimo (Tommi Korpela) can’t resist cutting a hole in the fence to go investigate. Dad is more worried about wolves and has set up mantrap on his land to snare any strays.
Three weeks later and the drilling has stopped and the site deserted. Not only that but the herd of Reindeer has mysteriously been slaughtered. But inquisitive Pietari thinks he knows what’s going on and as Christmas night nears there is danger to all from whatever was in that hole. He thinks the real Santa Clause was buried beneath that rock and The Coca-Cola Santa is just a hoax, and this one is certainly not full of Christmas cheer.
I really enjoyed this and love these quirky little subtitled Scandinavian folklore tales although not quite as funny and magical as Troll Hunter. It’s got a dry humor to it and that morose Scandinavian thing going on adds to the droll comic situations. You could say it’s an anti Christmas film and this particular Santa more interested in the children for presents than the other way around. It's not the sort of film to share with your kids around the log fire at Yuletide.
The mystery builds nicely toward what may or may not be down the hole as Christmas Day nears and the kid keeping the suspense going as his courage grows to prove to his father that he is worthy in this part of the world. It’s just got a lovely feel to it and a strange weirdness that makes you want the film to work, which it does. The subtitles are a pain to some but this is one of those foreign films where you welcome them. I always find that reading subtitles makes the film more of a complete experience, as it does the exact opposite when the film's dubbed.
This Christmas everyone will believe in Santa Claus.
Director: Jalmari Helander
Writers: Petri Jokiranta (dramaturge), Sami Parkkinen, and 3 more credits »
Stars: Jorma Tommila, Peeter Jakobi and Onni Tommila
It is the depths of Winter in Finland and a corporation of American Archeologists are excavating deep within the Korvatunturi mountains. Unknowingly they have excavated the most closely guarded secret of Christmas. At the same time in the neighbouring village a father (Rauno) and his son (Pietari) are preparing a reindeer hunt the proceeds of which will last them over the winter. As Christmas draws near the children of the village begin to vanish from their homes, replaced in their beds with grotesque dolls. The true secret of what has been dug up is discovered by Pietari who finds out the real nature of Old St Nick during his research into whether or not Santa Claus really exists.
If you are looking for a cosy Christmas film you may want to look elsewhere as this film is pretty dark. Although billed as horror I would actually describe it as more of a quirky black humour type film. There are some unsettling moments but essentially the horror comes from the true nature of Santa Claus. There are some creepy scenes such as when the dolls are found in the childrens beds but there is not a great deal of gore or violence hence the 15 certificate.
This is a Finnish film so as you would expect there are no famous actors to speak of. The performances however are very good especially Onni Tommila who plays Pietari. If found his frustration at being a child who knew all the answers but was not believed by any of the adults very funny and very true. The characters of the elves are also brilliantly realised and certainly left me with a chill.
Being set in Finland the mountainous landscape is absolutely breath taking - I do however think the cinematography did not do the location justice.
On the whole I found Rare Exports to be a very enjoyable film. It is the perfect anti-dote to all of the schmaltzy Christmas cheer that will be being rammed down our throats in a couple of months time. The concept of the film is completely original for a Christmas story. The pace of the film is great and I found the storyline gripped my throughout leading to a very unexpected twist at the end.
If you like films that are a little bit off the wall then I would definitely recommend you take a look at Rare Exports. I saw Rare Exports through Lovefilm but is available from Amazon for £9.99 from 7th November.