Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

"Excellent"

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale Review


Leave it to Finland, "the land of the original Santa Claus", to come up with a fiendishly clever way to twist the holiday's mythology into something that's both dryly hilarious and more than a little deranged.

When a multinational corporation drills into a mountain in Lapland, they make a freaky discovery: the original Father Christmas is encased in a buried block of ice. Local boy Pietari (Onni Tommila) figures out the secret and reads up on the grisly history of the real Santa, but his best friend Juuso (Jarvenpaa) doesn't believe any of it. And when kids start going missing, Pietari gets his father (Jorma Tommila) and his deer-hunting colleagues (Juvonen and Korpela) to help. But when they capture Santa, the strangeness has only begun.

The problem is that all of these people have been a bit naughty, and Santa knows it. And this unhinged wrinkle to the premise keeps us fully engaged with the characters. Writer-director Helander creates a tone that's darkly amusing and startlingly scary, skilfully mixing the bizarre events with more everyday realities. And the actors deliver earthy performances that are often hilarious simply because they're all so realistically clueless about what's happening.

Except Pietari, of course, and Tommila is a superb central figure we can really root for.

Visually, the film captures the striking snowy landscapes and culture of Lapland, where ancient actions still have repercussions and where an age-old culture clashes with greedy big business. There are some rather ropey effects here and there, but it doesn't matter with a story as endlessly inventive as this one is. And the mixture of laughter and chills continues right to the very end, when we learn what the film's title means.

The idea that the historical Santa was actually a monstrous old man who viciously punished misbehaved children is a stroke of genius. Helander also uses iconic symbols like Christmas lights, reindeer and Advent calendars in witty ways. And the plot carefully sets up each action sequence then pays everything off with a hugely satisfying final act that has us cheering for the heroes. Frankly, this film has "cult hit" written all over it. See it before the inevitable half-baked American remake.



Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Facts and Figures

Genre: Action/Adventure

Run time: 84 mins

In Theaters: Friday 3rd December 2010

Box Office USA: $0.2M

Budget: $1.9M

Distributed by: Oscilloscope Pictures

Production compaines: Cinet, Pomor Film, Love Streams Productions, Agnès b. Productions, Davaj Film, FilmCamp, Filmpool Nord, Kinology, Yleisradio (YLE)

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Fresh: 77 Rotten: 10

IMDB: 6.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Jalmari Helander

Producer: Anna Bjork, Francois-Xavier Frantz, Petri Jokiranta

Starring: as Riley, as Rauno, Tommi Korpela as Aimo, as Pietari, Jonathan Hutchings as Greene, Rauno Juvonen as Piiparinen, Ilmari Järvenpää as Juuso, Risto Salmi as Sheriff, Jens Sivertsen as Main Elf, Sigmund Bøe as Main Elf, Olav Pedersen as Main Elf, Nils M. Iselvmo as Main Elf, Steinar Skogstad as Elf, Nils Nymo as Elf, Hjalmar Iselvmo as Elf, Steinar Tunes as Elf, Torgeir Fosberg as Elf, Tor Kvammen as Elf, Hans Prestbakmo as Elf, Alf Roald Pedersen as Elf, Nikolaj Alsterdal as Elf, Knut Osa Greger as Cargo Santa, Kjell Tore Nordli as Helicopter Pilot, Stein-Erik Olsen as Herdsman, Atle Kirkegård as Miner, Hans Lindgård as Miner, Einar Fagertun as Miner, Bjørn Pedersen as Miner, Tommy Svendsen as Miner, as Pietari's Elf

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