Monday, December 6, 2010

Review: 'Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale' for Tom Magazine

For TOM Magazine. Read the original review here.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Director: Jalmari Helander.

Jorma Tommila, Onni Tommila, Peeter Jakobi, Rauno Juvonen, Per Christian Ellefsen

Reviewed by Anna Angel
This novel, sinister Christmas tale began in 2003 as a short by Finnish director Jalmari Helander that quickly gained momentum on the internet. Quirky ideas that capture audiences for a matter of minutes don’t necessarily translate into feature-length films, so it’s interesting to see if Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale can avoid going stale.

This is the antithesis of 1998’s
A Very Brady Christmas and any recent Hollywood offering (though there’s a distinct lack of cheesy Christmas releases this year, which is somewhat disappointing). This is not an uplifting movie, and there are no Christian morals to be shared. Helander’s Santa Claus is decidedly different to Coca-Cola’s version  -  so different that he sniffs out and smacks to death any children in his vicinity, rather than gifting them the latest Mattel creations. 

A young boy, Pietari (played brilliantly by Onni Tommila) living with his father (Jorma Tommila) in a struggling slaughterhouse near the Korvatunturi Mountains, discovers an American company’s plans to excavate the original Santa from his grave deep within the peak. Pietari’s research uncovers Santa’s true nature, and from then on, it’s obvious this is not going to be your average spirited affair. It takes a while for the plot to develop after this, but eventually his father and his friends capture the spindly, disturbing Santa in a fox trap and decide to sell him back to the man who wanted him dug up in the first place. This is when it really hits its stride. In the meantime, the audience gets to love Pietari’s determination and heart, understand the guarded love of his father, and appreciate the rough humour of supporting characters like Piiparinen (Rauno Juvonen). But it’s the ultimate payoff, both creepy and unexpectedly comic and charming, that makes it all worthwhile.

Certain scenes make this film clearly unsuitable for children, and given this, it could have drawn more blood, and amped up the thrills for its older audience. It’s fine for teens, and comfortable for adults, just not those with blood thirst. There is a wonderful undertone touching on the effects of recession, contrasting this with the commercialisation and greed of modern Christmas. There is familial heartbreak that more accurately portrays contemporary family life than most ‘
Stuart Little’/ ‘Home Alone’ tales. So it’s a shame most youngin’s would be scarred by the visuals of wrinkly, hairy, and frontally naked Santa’s helpers, because there’s some useful lessons here.

Ultimately the film is successful in maintaining interest, and at once funny, action-packed, and mildly disturbing. There are many characters you never really get to know or care for, and some unexplained plot-driving action, but this is a film after the heart of anyone who hates shopping centre jingles, mistletoe and family portraits with ‘Santa’. A warning for those who don’t care for subtitles; an ever-present blanket of snow makes the reading even more difficult for weary or just plain lazy eyes.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale in cinemas 2 December.


1 comment:

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