Review: ‘For the Living and the Dead’

Ordinary Finnish nuclear family copes with the accidental death of a child in the wintry, harrowing drama by producer-turned-helmer Kari Paljakka, produced by Aki Kaurismaki's shingle Sputnik Oy. Uncompromisingly depressing plot and early plodding may limit pics life span to domestic airings and fests.

An ordinary Finnish nuclear family copes with the accidental death of a child in the wintry, harrowing drama “For the Living and the Dead,” by producer-turned-helmer Kari Paljakka, produced by Aki Kaurismaki’s shingle Sputnik Oy. The fact the pic is based on a true story may account for its almost too-respectful attention the nuances of grief in first hour, although the third act finally picks up pace. Uncompromisingly depressing plot and early plodding may limit pics life span to domestic airings and fests.

The average, suburban Simberg family is shattered when their youngest son Metti is killed in a fire in the family car. Thinking an abandoned lighter must have started the conflagration, father Jaakko (Hannu-Pekka Bjorkman) fixates on his own guilt and can’t cry for his son. Mother Marja (Katja Kukkola), can’t stop weeping. Remaining son Timo (Johannes Paljakka) looks on with bewilderment. Ordinary-looking Bjorkman and Kukkola, both better known in supporting parts, give outstanding, passionate perfs that helmer Paljakka records with simplicity. Tech package accentuates sparseness, with subtle sound design by Jouko Lumme filling the gap left by absent music.

For the Living and the Dead

Finland

Production

A Sputnik Oy production, in association with YLE TV1, Finnish Film Foundation. (International sales: Bavaria Film Intl., Munich.) Produced by Ilkka Mertsola. Directed, written by Kari Paljakka.

Crew

Camera (color), Pekka Uotila; editor, Timo Linnasalo; set designer, Katarina Lume; costume designer, Niina Pasanen. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Panorama Special), Feb. 14, 2005. Running time: 95 MIN.

With

Hannu-Pekka Bjorkman, Katja Kukkola, Mari Rantasila, Tommi Korpela, Johannes Paljakka, Risto Salmi.
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