Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sauna (2008)

It started a year ago. Maybe later actually. Jocke over at Rubbermonsterfetishism saw Sauna and said to me - more than once during a short period - that this was something I should watch. And he told me it more and more times, he called my mother, he stalked my grandma... he even claimed to be my son to be able to infiltrate my workplace to tell me to watch it. When he started to put photos of us together, torn into a million pieces, into my mailbox I had to confront him. But it got worse.

And then, a couple weeks ago, we had a booth at the Scandinavian Sci-fi, Game & Film Convention in Stockholm, selling The Killer Elephants on DVD. Everything was calm until he suddenly disappeared and came back with the Njuta Films release of Sauna. I tried to avoid it for a week, but this morning I sat down and watched it...

The year is 1595, a delegation of Swedish and Russian officials travels through Finland to divide the country between the states. It's been a long and hard trip and the war isn't far behind them. Erik, the older brother, is plagued by the memories of those he killed - but continues to behave like it's war. The younger one, Knut, gets more and more worried of his brothers behaviour, but tries to keep out of his way. Soon they come to a big swamp, and according to all sources no one lives there - until they find a whole village in the middle of it. Soon a girl, that Knut thought Erik killed, starts following them and soon they realize that something is terrible wrong there. Or maybe it's that weird sauna, standing out in the wilderness, that haunts them all...

While Sweden still is a desert when it comes to genre cinema our neighbours churns out classic after classic. Denmark has been a force of cinema since many years, and Norway and Finland is there with them creating imaginative genre movies which aren't afraid of being bloody and commercial, but still stands with both feet in the Scandinavian mythology. Sauna is clearly one of the best. A meditative trip into the wilderness of our minds darker areas. Don't expect hyperactive editing and typical jump scares, this is so much more and with an amazing ambition to create something unique and genuinely scary.

I love how the camera sets in on a character and stays there. Reads the facial expressions, the eyes and the charisma of the actor. With no hasty cuts, director Antti-Jussi Annila gives us time breath the characters, feel the story and let the atmosphere creep up on us. Some people say it's impossible for someone from another country to judge if the actors are good or not. That's of course bullshit. An experienced, thinking viewer have no problem reading the actors of the most exotic origin and Finland is just next door to Sweden and I'll tell ya, this is some magnificent acting going on. Ville Virtanen and Tommi Eronen is of course perfect, but the biggest surprise for me was to see Viktor Klimenko's name in the end credits - and I finally could put a name on that familiar face. Klimenko was, and is still, a famous Finnish singer with a Russian heritage. Damn fine singer to and with some of the most outrageous "manly" album covers ever. In the beginning of the eighties he got a religious experience and turned his career to gospel and religious songs and the last I heard of him was that he claimed to be something of a prophet, telling the future and having a close contact with that absurd being called "God". So I thought he was lost - but obviously not, because starring in a very dark horror movie is quite a different career for a former preacher...

Sauna, which is the only good title, is also known as Evil Rising - but don't be fooled by that. This is a lot more than a simple supernatural horror movie. This is a Finnish masterpiece.

1 comment:

Gekko P. said...

Amazing film. Though I love Annila's Jade Warrior much more than Sauna.