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January 10, 2013

Lapland Odyssey

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Napapiirin sankarit
Dome Karukoski - 2010
Artsploitation Film Region 1 DVD

There's a shot in Lapland Odyssey that perfectly encapsulates the relationship the main character, Janne, has with money. Bluffing his way into breaking the frozen ice on behalf of a female underwater rugby team, Janne is thrown into a swimming pool by one of the young women. His payment of a Fifty Euro bill escapes from his clothing. Janne is underwater, desperately trying to grasp the bill, as out of reach as a slippery fish. For Janne, money seems to come and go, but is never held onto for very long, especially when it really needed.

The first few minutes are an introduction to Lapland, a part of Finland with bitter cold winters, and high unemployment. The history of Janne's small town is one of men who's dreams of success end in the worse kind of failure, followed by suicide by hanging one's self from an infamous dead tree. Not only is Janne unemployed, but he can't even fulfill the single task of his day, assigned by his wife, Inari, which is to buy a digibox by 5 p.m.

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His nine year relationship with Inari now is pending on his ability to go out on a freezing Friday night and somehow return with a digibox by Saturday morning. The odyssey is the road trip Janne takes with his two best friends, where even when something goes right, the trio find a way to screw things up, as the old joke goes, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

The 125 mile trip in zero degree weather is one of desperate measures, and the rug pulled out from under Janne mostly by his own foolishness. I was frequently reminded of Nicolas Cage's character in Raising Arizona and his pursuit of Huggies diapers. Lapland Odyssey has something of the vibe of an early Coen brothers film, with its men too easily dismissed as losers, and its streak of pitch black comedy where death takes a pratfall. Nothing shows self-delusion quite like the scene where Janne stands at an empty city streetlight during a very early morning hour, with a bucket and squeegee in hand, with the certainty that he can make a couple of Euros wiping the window of the next car to stop at the otherwise idle intersection.

There might be something in the reindeer meat, as one of Lapland Odyssey's competitors for the Jussi award, the Finnish equivalent to the Oscars, was Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale. Both films are diabolically funny, sometimes quite irreverent. As it turned out, the movie with the naked Russian with the paintball gun won over the movie with roundup of old, naked Santas, with Lapland Oddysey winning for Best Film, Direction and Screenplay for writer Pekko Pesonen.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at January 10, 2013 07:03 AM