Lapland Odyssey (2010) – A Film Review
For all its failures, the [economic] boom did liberate the Irish from the sense of history as, in James Joyce’s formulation, “a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” It banished the underlying Irish sense of doom, the bitter spectre of self-contempt that was always whispering in our ears that we would screw it all up. And then we screwed it all up.
From Enough is Enough by Fintan O’Toole
On my old website, I remember writing a piece about the cultural similarities between Finland and Ireland. Back then, I was exploring the Finnish alternative music scene. Here, it is the turn of the lesser spotted Finnish cinematic offering. Its English title (at least) sets things up nicely. Set in the dark and wintry north of the country, this is a tongue-in-cheek road journey where three inept heroes go on a mock-epic quest for a digibox so that Janne (Jussi Vatanen) can prevent his wife (Moa Gammel) from leaving him by the following morning. It is as slender as that and all of the humour is derived from the various eccentric characters that they meet along the road, not to mention playing on issues that are heavily associated with Finland, be they snow, forests, heavy drinking, saunas, mobile telephony, and more-money-than-sense Russian tourists.
Yet, there is a darker side to director Dome Karukoski’s film too – something that clearly resonates culturally with the Irish mentality. Namely, Lapland is a place of limited economic opportunities, where men, in particular, suffer from depression and its accompanying solace in alcoholism. Coupled to this is an innate sense of being perennial losers, no matter how well things seem to be going. In the film, this is exemplified by how Finland once contrived to throw away a 5-1 lead over rivals Sweden in ice hockey. However, although this mentality manifestly pervades the script, the film does struggle to move past its memorable opening where the history of the town is breezily told through the prism of five men who took their own lives. Having made such a provocative start, though, it is, perhaps, particularly ironic then that the film soon loses its boldness and ends up curling back into the ball of being a much more mainstream form of comedy.
Indeed, the problem with this film is that I just did not find it much more than lightly amusing. The Finns in the audience, though, chuckled their way through it. To this extent, the perennial “lost in translation” problem with the subtitles may be to blame. If so, then this is clearly a case of the Frank Carsons (narrow cultural reference intended)!
P.S. The mock Western soundtrack from composer Lance Hogan deserves a special shout-out.