Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Review - Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010 - Dir. Jalmari Helander)

You might be wondering why this film isn't part of the upcoming Christmas Season. It's because it's a Christmas film obviously. It would be crazy to have a Christmas Season that actually contained Christmas themed films. For a film to qualify for the season, it has to be one that I watch at this festive time, but have no Christmas content. Hope that clears that up.

On to the film. I went into this expecting a low-budget dirty grimy Finnish festive tale with a sideline in creepy nastiness. Rare Exports feels more like a Spielberg film (if he made obscure low-budget family unfriendly films). I was surprised at how gorgeous it looked. The lighting in both the interiors and exteriors, along with some super-smooth camera moves, make for a more polished experience. Even the odd bits of grime and grit look shiny. Straight away my expectations were dashed.

I don't think that it's a spoiler to give away some plot details (the trailer gives away far more). A company dig up something strange in the mountains of Northern Finland. Turns out that it's Santa. Not the cuddly (slightly worrying) Santa we all know and love, but a Santa from fairy tales who rips bad children to shreds. This affects a small nearby community who, after a really bad 'harvest', come up with a crafty plan to make some cash. Pietari (Onni Tommila) is a small boy from the village who knows from the start what is happening, but no-one believes him (funnily enough).

Rare Exports contains some cracking visual sequences and looks so good that I feel I should like it more. Was it my initial expectations clouding my judgment? My main problem is that the material seems to be stretched to feature film length. At many points, it seems to drag along at such a slow pace. I'm all for a patient build up, but this is a tad too patient. My other gripe is that seeing as though this is based on a dark, violent, child-shredding fairy tale Santa, there's not really a lot of blood and gore. A pig comes off the worst but it's nothing that you couldn't see just wandering through your local Morrisons. The whole thing comes across as being gentler than your average episode of Heartbeat (definitely tamer than the episode where Nick 'Wicksy' Wicks catches Greengrass gutting a pensioner with a pickled onion fork, just to thieve his bag of Werthers). 

Again this all come backs to my feeling of Spielberginess: great visuals, gentle humour, children at the centre of the story, plus there's a shot of some crates that recalls one of Spielberg's greats. It's worth seeing on DVD, but only just.

If you like this you could also try:
The Thing, Tekkonkinkreet, Dead Snow.

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