Vuosaari - Naked Harbour

Despondency, cruelty, death, misery in all its forms is the focus of the Finnish film Vuosaari. Wretched, exploitative and painful relationships are the theme, to a point were I had to wonder if anyone is happy in Vuosaari.

Much of Finland’s culture is, for me, obscured behind the language. For instance, this film subtitled Naked Harbour, when advertised immediately excited me as I live in the area. Unfortunately, I had to wait for English subtitles and finally had the opportunity to see it at Christmas.

While I was pleased to see familiar places, I also saw too many relationships – all of them doomed – to feel any form of compassion of connection with the characters to the point that even their names were immediately forgotten. Drugs, bullying, terminal illness, abuse, failing marriages, cheating, a mother killing her son’s dog, - it was a bit too much. Furthermore, the frequent and often impersonal sex and nudity was distracting, punctuating the flow of the film, just as any connections or emotions were beginning to form. Finally, the end is a onslaught of happy endings that seem disjointed as nothing about the plot gave us any hope.

Overall, I love the opportunity to see how Finns perceive themselves, Vuosaari is set among the ordinary; we see into the homes and watch the surroundings of ordinary people. A clever aspect of the film was reality TV, as addiction, a sedative and how it creates unrealistic expectations. TVs are constantly tuned to a Big Brother type show.

Vuosaari isn’t glossy, its characters have cellulite, beer bellies, some are plain and some are pretty – everyone is someone you may have bumped into at the supermarket.


Dunes (fiction)

Christmas cards and songs had told her of a longing for a white Christmas long before Nomai had ever seen snow. Finally she found it – the winter wonderland - dunes of white powder piled as high as her basement bedroom window.

For days now she’d been watching the streetlight illuminated world from that bedroom window, her suburban world silent but for the grinding engines of the daily snowplough and the pizza delivery service.

Her three housemates are gone, each to their own Christmas, return dates marked on the calendar in their shared kitchen. 

At first the silence was welcome, marshmallows floating in large mugs of hot chocolate sipped in front of the TV, in the biggest armchair, the choice of channel all her own. She told herself she was glad to see the back of them. Four months of noise, cold coffee left in the machine, fridge space invaded by strange vegetarian meat substitutes, were for at least a little while, over. Four months of front doors slamming in the middle of the night, of a male whisper answered by, “shhh, they’ll hear you,” followed by the creak of floorboards as two people tiptoed up the ancient staircase.

The three of them were gone, their families well within the reach of trains and budget airlines and hers not, Nomai left behind in charge of an orchid -  bought in full bloom - and two cactus. Christmas lights flickered in the corner on a miniature tree and a straw pig stood on guard in a seasonal bow tie. 

Nomai recalled damp lawns, green and lush, the Christmas sun in the sky, rainclouds braced to strike in the distance – black and grey, thunder and lightening in the distance ready to strike?

But never at Christmas, it never rained on Christmas day. Or was that one the tricks of homesickness, that Christmas days, like mango and wild fruit or Debonair pizza and barbecues, were always perfect?

“I’m back!” called Raina, her entry punctuated by the thud of her suitcase hitting the wooden floorboards.

“Oh hell I forgot - it’s today!” Nomai wiped her eyes and leaped off her bed, running to greet her friend.

image via the minimalist baker


You might as well not believe in fairies!

Whenever one feels cynicism has taken over there are always wise words such as these.
Read this story here.


Silence and beauty

Finland is a country of astonishing beauty, a beauty that is never too far away. Two and half hours from Helsinki, (plus an additional two and half hour train delay), we find ourselves far from the city and in the depth of farming country anticipating Christmas. It’s quiet, the few people that pepper the landscape are too far away to be heard - mere dots of light in the night. Snow and ice blanket the landscape as far as the eye can see.

Blanket is an apt word, it’s now -23oc. Tonight’s prospect is -27oc. Brrrr – but wait! Hot glögi and piparkakku, a fireplace roars in one room and a leivinuuni radiates a gentle heat in the kitchen. It’s warm and cosy inside.

In the immortal words of George Takei “Oh myyy.”


Snapshots of another world

During a visit to the Rikhardinkatu library I flicked through Photo Raw’s latest edition and was immediately struck by the work of Meeri Koutoniemi, a Finnish freelance photographer.

Her snapshots of the lives of Mexican sex workers and men in a hospice for those with AIDS are simultaneously poignant and brutal and her images are captivating and thought provoking.

Meeri Koutoniemi's website lists an ongoing exhibition at Korjaamo and I think I may have a gander. 


The end of the world

This Friday the world ends or it doesn’t. 

I don’t know about you, but I’ve booked to do my laundry. If the world doesn’t end I have Christmas to celebrate, if it does – don’t underestimate the need for clean underwear in a post-apocalyptic world. 

All across the world thousands or hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of people are preparing for what the ancient Mayan calendar never predicted to be the end of time. Frankly, I have no idea what good tinned goods and salt will do if time were to end, but it doesn’t hurt to be ready. Just like we were ready in 1993, 1999 and 2011, those being the predictions I recall, never mind sect specific Armageddons and the ones that have come and gone without my noticing. Additionally, we have Zombie, influenza, Internet meltdown, Ebola and triffid end-of-days scenarios that some people believe may come true. 

It’s rather boring and repetitive. Honestly, it’s as if no one remembers Nostradamus and have we all forgotten the Book of Revelation? Those are what really frightened us in the nineties.

Face it, we just want the world to end. Why else do we ignore all reason and logic and cling to a flimsy, unsubstantiated speculation? We want to skip town, not pay our mortgages, quit our jobs and get to carry big guns to shoot at Zombies. 

The wonderful thing is if I’m wrong – no one gets to say (or scream), “I told you so.”