Frozen Land

Frozen Land


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The underlying emotion is rage, followed by depression and humiliation. Lives are ruined by circumstances beyond control. Hope flickers and almost dies. The final words, spoken by the only redeemable character, are, "We have to believe that things work out for the best." It doesn't look that way and doesn't sound too convincing.

Aku Louhimies' epic wallow (more than two hours) in Finnish despair covers everything from forgery, redundancy, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, murder, auto theft, revenge, drunken sex, buggery and violence against children. All that's missing are satanic rituals and a lesbian orgy.

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As a feelbad movie, Frozen Land remains faithful to its message that without money you're a four-letter word and without love loneliness will kill you. On the plus side, the cops in Helsinki are a little slow on the uptake, which means that Isto (Mikko Kouki), a loud-mouthed thug, can break into an auto showroom and drive out with a brand new Land Rover, race around the city like a drugged-up maniac and receive not so much as a speeding ticket.

At first, it appears to be a portmanteau film that passes from a good teacher, who is given the sack, to his layabout son Niko (Jasper Paakkonen), who prints out a 500 euro note from a computer at a New Year party, to the corner store that accepts the note in payment for a CD player, to Isto, who flogs a stolen TV to the store, to a redundant, alcoholic vacuum cleaner salesman (Sulevi Peltola), who meets Isto in a bar, toâ€

In fact, the central story involves Niko's best mate Tuomas (Mikko Leppilampi) and his girlfriend Elina (Pamela Tola), who plan a heist of intellectual property (download of database) from her father's office, and a depressed policewoman Hannele (Matleena Kuusniemi) with three kids and her school teacher - another one - husband Antti (Petteri Summanen), who subsequently goes off the rails.

Louhimies cleverly shuffles time, so that certain scenes are repeated from separate points-of-view at different periods throughout the film, emphasising the heist, Hannele's accident and Antti's response, leaving the audience to wonder what on earth the violent and decidedly nasty sub plot, involving Isto and the vacuum cleaner salesman, has to do with anything.

As neo-realism, with snow, Frozen Land cannot be faulted. The performances are authentic and, in some cases, uncompromising. It has won awards at the Bergen, Moscow and Leeds film festivals and is based on Leo Tolstoy's False Note, although feels more like something by Dostoyevsky. The fact that it makes you want to commit suicide might be considered a compliment.

Reviewed on: 12 Oct 2006
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Desperate lives, bloody murder, alcohol, drugs and bad sex in Helsinki.
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Director: Aku Louhimies

Writer: Paavo Westerberg, Jari Rantala, Aku Louhimies, based on False Note by Leo Tolstoy

Starring: Jasper Paakkonen, Mikko Leppilampi, Pamela Tola, Petteri Summanen, Matleena Kuusniemi, Sulevi Peltola, Mikko Kouki, Pertti Sveholm

Year: 2005

Runtime: 127 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Finland


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