Christmas and thriller. These two words are typically not used together but Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, directed by Jalmari Helander, has attempted to make the words compatible. The movie begins in the Finnish mountains, where we see a conversation between a driller and the benefactor of what appears to be an expedition. The driller says that they found some sawdust in the mountain, something that obviously doesn’t exist inside a mountain. At this point, the benefactor demands that the crew must keep drilling and gives the driller rules to follow as he continues his work. A closer examination shows these are basic rules for any one good person to follow, such as not to swear and make sure to wash behind his ears. The camera pans out to show that two children are spying on the drillers: Pietari, our protagonist and his friend Jusso. Pietari, our very young protagonist makes a very educated and seemingly random guess that the drilling has something to do with Santa Claus. After this opening scene, shots during the opening credits show us that Santa Claus was in fact, evil and that over time the folklore has evolved to what we know Santa Claus to be now.
Onni Tommila does an excellent job of portraying Pietari, an innocent but very intelligent young boy throughout the film. By the film’s climax, Pietari grows up and Tommila plays the character so well that we can clearly see that character’s growth.
One of the more disappointing parts of this film is that it could have ended about fifteen minutes earlier. After what seems to be the conclusion of the film, we are given additional scenes that don’t add anything special to the story other than trying to give a reason to whyRare Exports is the title of the film.
Aside from Tommila’s stellar performance, the film has some other merits worth mentioning. One of the film’s highlights is the location in which it was filmed. The Finnish mountains are an absolutely marvelous place to look at and the perfect setting for this bizarre fantasy film. When viewing this film, I couldn’t help imagining being in the movie and feeling cold. This type of audience interaction is a pretty cool concept and should be implemented in all forms of cinema.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is a unique film. It blends a few genres together to form a pretty mediocre picture. The two main genres it combines are fantasy and thriller. Throughout much the film, it is rather difficult to figure out what genre the movie wants to be. There are moments of dark creepiness and then there are scenes filled with hope and childhood innocence. This movie is pretty bipolar in that respect. One must watch this film with an open mind.
One of the film’s messages is that you have to nice in this world. That way, Santa Claus will know whether to reward you and if you’re naughty, you will be punished. Rare Exports delivers this message of rewarding or punishing good and bad child behavior. The film is a Finnish cautionary tale designed to warn audiences, especially children of the dangers of being naughty. Personally, I’ve never seen a movie that depicts Santa Claus so realistically. Sure, Tim Allen had a nice run as the jolly St. Nick in the Santa Clause Trilogy but Rare Exports is a truly bizarre film and portrays Santa Claus as creepy old man who punishes the naughty.
The movie, perhaps could have been better if not for the concept that Santa Claus is evil. It has some redeeming qualities in that it truly does build up the suspense throughout the film and with some surprises that this writer will choose not to ruin. So, If you’re looking for a thriller, by all means watch this movie but if you’re looking for a fun holiday film I’d put on just about anything else.