Saturday, March 26, 2011

Hyvä poika / The Good Son

Den goda sonen.
    FI © 2011 Oy Bufo Ab. P: Elli Toivoniemi, Mark Lwoff, Misha Jaari. D: Zaida Bergroth. SC: Jan Forsström, Zaida Bergroth. DP: Anu Keränen – shot on two small digital systems cameras, perhaps Canon Mark II – digital post-production: Cinepro. AD: Tytti Tiri, Okku Rahikainen: Costumes: Sari Suominen. Make-up: Pia Mikkonen. M: Mi and L'Au. S: Micke Nyström. ED: Jan Forsström.
    CAST: Samuli Niittymäki (Ilmari), Elina Knihtilä (Leila Manner), Eero Aho (Aimo), Anna Paavilainen (Karita), Eetu Julin (Unto).
    With: Kim Ahosvaara (Helander), Severi Saarinen (Simo), Kaisa Mattila (Lilli), Sanna-Kaisa Palo (Siiri), Pekka Valkeejärvi (Hannu), Antti Raivio (Kari). 87 min.
    Released by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Finland with Swedish subtitles.
    Viewed as a 35 mm print at Kinopalatsi 7, Helsinki, 26 March 2011 (premiere weekend).

Zaida Bergroth's debut feature film was the acclaimed Skavabölen pojat, and Hyvä poika has opened to equally positive reviews. The actress and single mother Leila Manner (Elina Knihtilä) retreats to her old family villa after a tumultuous film premiere. She is accompanied by her two sons, the 19-year-old Ilmari (Samuli Niittymäki) and the ca 10 year old Unto (Eetu Julin). Instead of peace and quiet they soon experience some partying as Leila decides to invite writer friends from the Mukkula writers' summer days. The writer Aimo (Eero Aho) stays with Leila. The boys are embarrassed. Ilmari has become Leila's bodyguard who has no problem evicting an unwanted guest violently. Unto is an introverted nature aficionado who reads bird books, photographs dragonflies, butterflies and other insects with his digital camera and edits his footage on a laptop. The local waitress Karita (Anna Paavilainen) is interested in Ilmari and they start to see each other. Everybody is off balance. Misled by Karita Ilmari overplays his bodyguard role tragically.

A chamber play in the Strindberg tradition, with all the characters deeply hurt. The difference to the chamber plays of Strindberg, Chekhov, Albee, etc., is that Zaida Bergroth's characters are more seriously disturbed, Leila suffering from a narcissistic personality disorder and her sons suffering with her. It may be challenging to relate to such characters even in a movie. There is a classical Oedipal situation in the movie, which is, however, never schematic.

Critics have commented positively on the visual quality achieved with the 2000 Euro systems cameras. In reality there is a heavy digital video look in the movie. It does not harm in the close-ups in this character-driven chamber movie, but the nature footage looks denatured.

The performances by Samuli Niittymäki, Elina Knihtilä, Eero Aho, Anna Paavilainen, and Eetu Julin are powerful and authentic. Obviously Zaida Bergroth is a fine director of children and young people, as well as grown-ups.

P.S. 1 April 2011: There is a similarity in Ilmari to the young avenger in Susanne Bier's Hævnen / In a Better World.

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