Dir: Markku Polonen. Finland. 2001. 77mins.
Markku Polonen has been on Finland's film-making scene for nearly two decades, but On The Road To Emmaus buzzes with the irrepressible anarchic spirit of a first or second feature. Premiered in Helsinki last October, the film had local critics calling Polonen a Finnish Fellini and, both in its theme - of a man reliving his childhood - and in its exuberant treatment, this does, indeed, have the feel of a low-rent Nordic Amarcord. Shot, according to the production notes, in a single day, and edited in three, this mini-budget (Euros 300,000) DV movie is by no stretch of the imagination seriously commercial. But its offbeat energy could make it a cult item with the same crowd turned on by the deadpan humour of Aki Kaurismaki. Venturesome indie distributors should take note.
Like much of Polonen's previous work, the subject is the conflict between city and country, as experienced by an urban dweller returning to his rural roots. Cynical Helsinki estate agent Rane Koskivuo (Puntti Valtonen) arrives in his home village, which he has never visited, even for his father's funeral, for the last 20 years. His purpose: to sell the family farm and finally sever all ties with the place.
As he walks along the road leading to his village, he's accompanied by a procession of strange and grotesque ghosts from his past. They include: his own childhood self, his late father, his childhood sweetheart, a boyhood friend and his financee, a fellow villager and the curiously androgynous wife whom the latter brought back from the city. Collectively, they accuse Rane of being the black sheep of the village, who made girls pregnant and cheated old folk of their money.
The script is peppered with caustic aphorisms ("Men are like toilets: free, taken or full of shit") as well as karaoke numbers and surreal dance sequences; in one, a group of pensioners dance in their underwear. At times, the actors address the camera to sound off on their low opinions of the story. As the end credits roll (each actor toasting the camera with a glass of schnapps as his name comes up), the cast complains loudly that the film is only half finished. Polonen is sensible enough to leave his audience also wanting more.
Prod co: Fennada-Filmi
Int'l Sales: Fennada-Filmi
Prod: Kare Sara
Cinematography: Karli Sohlberg
Ed: Jukka Nykanen
Music: Vesa Makinen
Main cast: Puntti Valtonen, Peter Franzen, Lotta Lehtikari, Sanna-Kaisa Palo, Aake Kalliala