Friday, 9 November 2012

Laura Birn, Amanda Pilke, and others in “Vuosaari” [2012 Finland]

Of the few Finnish films I've had the opportunity to see, director Aku Louhimies' name appears twice. His multi-strand drama "Vuosaari" [Eng. Title: Naked Harbour] is certainly the better of the two (the one I'm comparing with is his earlier Levottomat).

Set in and around Helsinki, the film unravels several parallel but unconnected stories - the common feature being its focus on relationships within each respective environment. We follow a druggie-couple, hoping against odds to make a fresh start, a doting single father and his son, a precocious teenager desperate to become famous, the son of an immigrant single mum who suffers bullying in school, a wealthy family's failing marriage and the husband's extramarital affair, a young boy aching for love from his indifferent mother and finding companionship through his pet dog, and a terminally ill mother and her child coming to terms with what lies ahead (the most moving story among all).

The film doesn't analyse these relationships as much as observe them sympathetically. Some are melodramatic, while the others are quite dispassionate. The stunning winter-wonderland backdrop acts as a stark contrast to the despair, foreboding, and misery of the characters' lives. This peculiarity also appears to be a very Finnish facet from what little I know about the country and their cinema - you sometimes wonder whether it's the cold climate that does this to them. And this is not even a depressing film - it resolves several stories in a rather upbeat fashion, and there is plenty of love and humour in the film too! In any case, what struck me about the film more than anything else is the exceptional performances by ALL the main cast, young and old. This after all reflects on the quality of the screenplay, shot selection, editing and importantly, the direction. The other positive in the film is its breathtaking cinematography, aided of course by the marvellous landscape and some good set design. Despite the convenient and sloppy ending to one or two of these stories, I thoroughly enjoyed the film for its most part, and it is for that reason that this is Recommended Viewing!

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The Nudity:
Laura Birn, Amanda Pilke, Matleena Kuusniemi, Pekka Strang, Lenna Kuurmaa, Mikko Kouki, and Teemo Heino
As suggested by this list, a good chunk of the adult main cast, male and female, appear nude in the film, but they're all brief, relevant, and incidental.

Laura Birn, Amanda Pilke, Matleena Kuusniemi, Pekka Strang, and Lenna Kuurmaa in Vuosaari

Scene Guide:
  • As Make frets over finding cash to pay off a loan shark, fiancée Iiris suggests they have some fun instead. They both appear to be drug addicts.
  • Fun over, and when Make reiterates his love for Iiris, she asks him not to be clingy. Iiris is played by sultry Laura Birn.
  • "It's payback time", so says the loan shark-thug as he accosts Make after the deadline, and Iiris intervenes by suggesting a different way to deal with the situation. Make could only watch in dismay as his fiancée performs fellatio on the thug.
  • No nudity - sixteen year old Milla is desperate to become famous. After some unsuccessful auditions, she decides to build herself a seductive portfolio!
  • Milla befriends a photographer at one of her auditions, and makes it plain to him that she'll be willing to do 'anything' to become famous. This inevitably leads to her first porn shoot, despite him making clear what this would entail. Milla is determined all the same, her reasoning - "One should try everything, right?" Milla is played by the rather cute Amanda Pike.
  • Sara and husband Lauri haven't made love in ages - their marriage is rapidly falling apart. Sara finds out about his affair with their young maid Viivi, and confronts him one evening by not only inviting Viivi for dinner, but also sauna afterwards. The painful episode is filled with irony and humour, as Sara, superbly played by Matleena Kuusniemi, relishes putting her husband through several awkward moments, only to end up with pie on her face. Stone-faced Lauri is played by Pekka Strang, and Viivi by the pretty and sexy Lenna Kuurmaa.
  • Father and son bonding - hitherto domineering father Pertti finally opens up to his own insecurities with son Teemu in the sauna. Pertti is played by Mikko Kouki, and Teemu but Teemu Heino.

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