Lynx Man


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Lynx Man
"Loner Rantala is the perfect subject for a documentary, distinctive both in look and deed." | Photo: Alexander Lembke

Animal exploits and human eccentricity form a heady, addictive brew in Juha Suonpää’s playful and atmospheric Lynx Man. He turns his camera on Hannu Rantala who, in turn, has his own lenses focused on the lynx that live in the forest near his Finnish home. The result is a multi-layered consideration of both human and animal behaviour that prompts us to think about how we might better live in harmony with the creatures which share our planet.

Loner Rantala is the perfect subject for a documentary, distinctive both in look and deed. His grey flowing beard and piercing blue eyes lend him an old man of the woods vibe even before we see roaming within them, carefully situating hidden cameras to catch the lynx on their excursions. It’s obvious he feels these majestic cats are kindred spirits, although that seems to be more due to his willingness to take a walk on the wild side than because he embues them with anthropomorphic traits. Nevertheless, he knows them all by name - from the prosaic Spot and offbeat Grumpy Girl and Velvet Eyes to the baroquely monikered Terror of Laitila.

Copy picture

His ‘conversations’ with the lynx take the form of leaving what amounts to pee-mail on the cameras he has set out - “It’s like a data point for exchanging thoughts,” he says - and he also talks about “seeing” various animals in his sauna. This latter element gives Suonpää’s film a primal edge, as in among the lynx meanderings we also see the near-naked Hannu in the snow, sometimes wearing a lynx mask, at others playing accordion. The director also amplifies the dreamlike connection between man and animal by projecting some of Hannu’s footage of the lynx onto the sauna steam or across the walls of his home. Both the quirkiness of all this and Hannu’s connection to ingrained tradition are emphasised by folk music scoring on traditional instruments by Estonian folk duo Puuluup, along with Kimmo Helén and Tanel Kadalipp.

Hannu’s cameras are well placed and the film is punctuated by footage caught by their motion sensors. We’re treated to Grumpy Girl and her offspring, eyes blazing as though she’s an alien courtesy the night vision, the kittens playing with the cameras, and majestic male cat Jospeh going about his business. Other animals also get their moment in the spotlight - from curious moose to a fox that gets more than it bargains for when it encounters a gaggle of geese.

There’s no doubting Hannu’s eccentricity but there’s also something very moving about the joy he gets from watching footage of the lynx. His love of the animals leaps from the screen and proves infectious. While much of Suonpää’s film is celebratory, we also see how fragile the existence of the lynx is, particularly in hunting season, when they face not only being killed but also maimed in ways that could lead to a slow death. Hannu may have an obsession but he’s doing something with it, campaigning for better protection for the animals he loves - after watching his dedication to them, you’re likely to join the cause.

Reviewed on: 22 Mar 2023
Share this with others on...
Lynx Man packshot
Documentary about one man's obsession with the lynx who live in the forests around him.

Director: Juha Suonpää

Year: 2023

Runtime: 80 minutes


Search database:

Related Articles:

Spotting a story