Kansakunnan Olohuone (Living Room of the Nation) (2009) D: Jukka Kärkkäinen

Living Room of the Nation

Kansakunnan Olohuone

Screening at the Revelation Perth International Film Festival, Living Room of the Nation is a fly-on-the-wall style documentary from Finland with unspectacular Fins as its subjects. Through a series of mostly static and not very well framed shots, the audience gets a fairly unbiased view of life in Finland.

What you’ll notice about this life is the almost excruciating slowness and grimy isolation of it all. These aren’t high-flying successful Finnish nationals, these are the ones left behind. Tero finds out he’s gotten his now ex-girlfriend pregnant. The pastor, an obese and aging shut in is being moved to a nursing home. Erkki and Ritva are a retiring couple looking to sell their house and buy a smaller place to begin their ‘senior lifestyle’ (Ritva’s words). Arvi the busker is a seemingly single old man whose life revolves around his busking stint. Mauno and Jaana are an eccentric, possibly homicidal couple looking to settle in after the drunken, violent Jaana is out from six weeks in an asylum. Teuvo is somewhat of a fitness fanatic who is struggling with the passing of his father and his own perceived failures.

There’s not a lot of editing, no prodding from the crew (not even when Tero has a pot on the stove that catches fire, unbeknown to him) and barely any camera movement. This is almost like hidden camera footage apart from the subjects speaking right at us. What the non-judging eye shows us is a kind of passive destitution and a greasy dampness about everyday struggle.

It’s not going to inspire any viewers to pack their bags and head for Helsinki, but Living Room of the Nation isn’t trying to sell anything either. Not the feel good film of the year, but a fascinating document nonetheless.

A fascinating series of home movie vignettes from Finland. 3 Stars

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~ by mfnm on July 10, 2010.

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