Recently: “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale”

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/9c1/68294143/files/2014/12/img_0406.jpgOkay, not gonna lie. Not gonna sugar coat it. No matter how long or how hard I sit and think on something to start this off with, nothing will come to mind. Absolutely nothing. I think the tumble weeds are moving in waiting to start work.

The Oscilloscope Laboratories and FS Film Oy film “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale”, was actually a pretty big let down. Too much started, but nothing managed to reach the end result aimed for.

This film stars Onni Tommila (“Big Game”, “Eetu ja Konna”), Jorma Tommila (“Kimmo”, “Skye”), Tommi Korpela (“Raspberry Boat Refugee”, “Santa”), Rauno Juvonen (“Middle of the Road”, “Priest of Evil”), Per Christian Ellefsen (“1001 Grams”, “Magic Silver II”), Ilmari Järvenpää (“Village People”, “Look of a Killer”), Peeter Jakobi (“Living Images”, “Ohtlik lend”), and Jonathan Hutchings (“We Are, Human, After All (Short 2013)”, “Moonstone”).

The film was written and directed by Jalmari Helander (“Big Game”, “Viimeinen pisara (Short 2011)”).

The film was originally released on Dec. 3, 2010 in limited release. It debuted at the Austin Fantastic Fest on Sept. 24.

So, apparently, I am a sucker. I am easily swayed into thinking something is worth watching, only to realize later that it isn’t. No, I’m not saying that it’s entirely the fault of people who also like to watch similar films that I do. It’s that and my own weird thought process which ultimately leads to me watching a film I’ve wanted to see for some time, but never managed to. I got so excited even, that the first thing I did was scroll through recorded content and click a few times, then select play! I didn’t realize I was going to pretty much regret my decision.

This film wasn’t a film that completely bored the crap out of me, but it didn’t exactly hold my interest. The biggest upside this film had going for it was the fact that it rooted its story in a certain kind of mythology, folklore, if you will. Basically, something you would’ve seen on an episode of “Supernatural”, back when it was actually a really good show. The drawing in the too conveniently found (already owned?) books were the right amount of old looking and creepy. I got a decent sense of what this version of Santa Claus was supposed to be. However, mere drawings and the imagination of a young child can’t be the only thing trying to keep me interested in the film.

I’m not certain why I kept watching. I guess I expected something to happen. I’ll admit, that while I’ll rally against the idea that everything must happen immediately or in a fast paced manner, I’m also one of those people that really needs that to be a component of a film at times. If not, I’m watching some slow moving film that’s trying to build up suspense (or claims it is), all the while discovering that there really isn’t anything of interest going to happen. Ever. In the case of this film, I should’ve just sought out a documentary on the lives of people living in this area. That is pretty much what it was, or certainly felt like. Here’s this small village. Here are the people. See them work. It’s cold. There’s snow. There’s a boy. He’s doing something. See the people. They’re doing things. They’re sitting. Blah blah blah. BORING!!! This, mind you, was the first hour, more or less. I’d say maybe take off five to 10 minutes at most.

I guess if you wanted me to give this film a positive it would be that you actually learned quite a bit about some of the characters. The boy and his father in particular had much revealed about their life situations. But, while this is all fine and dandy from a creative standpoint, it does nothing for me, whatsoever, if I don’t give a damn about the characters. No matter what they’re doing, I don’t care. They do not interest me. They’re just there for some pretty flimsy plot (which makes very little sense to begin with) and serve no other purpose. They could’ve easily been played by puppets.

If this film wanted to be a horror film or thought that it was, it forgot to add those specific elements. I know horror can, and rarely does, get an approach that’s different, but just deciding that you want a fantasy horror film does not make it fit that genre. While others may see this as a creative take on the genre, not to mention story, I see a film that doesn’t do that. Not in the slightest. Just because you throw in some gruesome, real looking dead animals does not mean you’ve got the elements. Naked old creepy looking men, that are supposed to be elves protecting their master, that actually doesn’t do anything either. They just look weird and very cold. Hell, this film only managed one actual on screen kill, or kill of a person for that matter. It wasn’t like a whole lot of people started to get killed for some unknown reason. The only things that bit it were the reindeer, all in the same night. Even that can’t work as a mysterious who-dun-it plot line. One horror element that seems like it should’ve been there was the reveal of the first Santa Claus. No. All you get is a big block of ice and horns sticking out. But, you saved money that way.

While these elements should’ve been used, that’s not the thing that makes this film all the more disappointing. It’s that one little boy, with an overactive imagination, says a few things and gets everyone to believe him. Flat out. No questions asked. Not really. Doubt barely has time to get to the surface before it’s pushed back down. The rest of the characters go through with his ridiculous theories (that had no chance to play out and reveal themselves as true), and enter the most insane portion of the film. Now, normally, I’d be okay with this crazy bit of storytelling. Really I would. But when the rest of what you’ve offered doesn’t immerse me or even catch my interest, how do you expect me to accept the last bit of strange storytelling? I love the crazily created and ridiculous plot driven films, but this, was just too much for me. It went beyond ridiculous.

Belief is pretty much thrown out the window once you reach the last 20-25 minutes. Whilst going along with everything this little boy says, everyone’s perfectly okay with the kid clinging to a giant cargo net stuffed full of kidnapped children. Children that also didn’t have the time to be missed by anyone. That didn’t stop the adults from believing that they’d been taken for Santa’s evil purposes. Adults, and I should mention, was only a mere three in total. So, here’s this kid, high up in the air on a cargo net full of children, giving orders. No one finds this strange or dangerous. Nor does anything happen. He just happens to execute his plan and it all works out for the better.

No. Not at all. I don’t buy. The film itself wraps way too nicely, and this is after nothing happens for the majority of the film. The most exciting bit of the film was also incredibly dull and too convenient.

Watching this film only provided me with one worth while thing. I got to see a film in the original Finnish language. No badly done and annoying dubbed voices. It’s fun to see foreign films, except when they don’t live up to expectations. Come to think of it, how did I have any? Beats me. What I do know, and this I learned after reading a bit of the comments by noted critics, is this is not a comedy either. Dark/black comedy, satire or anything. I saw none of the elements that could make it so, also I wasn’t looking for any, but then again, I’m not a seasoned person. I, more likely than not, couldn’t notice it if it was staring me in the face. I’m going to have to go with the sad conclusion that this film, for me, was a complete waste and an incredible disappointment. They can’t all be winners. Even if they’re foreign films.

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2 thoughts on “Recently: “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale”

  1. Wow ok now I feel kind of crappy for telling you about this movie, didn’t realize it was gonna bore you so much. Personally, I cant say that I liked it either, however I did appreciate the different approach (I m SO FED UP OF AMERICAN WANNA-BE HORRORS). Thing is, I never actually perceived this one as a horror either – more as a foreign fantasy film – kind of like Pan’s Labyrinth, though of course that’s like comparing a pebble to a mountain.

    When I am interested in a subject, I like to explore different venues and aspects of it, no matter how stupid. At the time I watched this, I was writing an article on the mythical origins of Santa Claus (can be found here – http://www.eve.com.mt/2014/12/25/the-secret-identity-of-father-christmas/ and although no kernel of information or aspects of this movie made it to that (obviously, since it’s all fictitious and this was a historical article), it was still interesting.

    Like you, I hated the ‘net-sequence’ – gods was it such an easy thing for 3 adult men to relinquish their judgment in favor of a young boy’s belief in Wicked Santa or what?

    Also, it was very obvious that production of this movie was on quite a tight budget, hence the lack of adult actors (apart from the wizened elves that is lol).

    Like

  2. Another thing – I thought the beginning was original, with the Finnish aspects thrown in as well as the portrayal of how the locals work and lived, then again, I love LOTR, which many see as nothing more than a glorified New Zealand advert ;p

    Like

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