Geography of Fear

Based on a controversial 1995 bestseller about female vigilantes, "Geography of Fear" is a Finnish film that tries to debate the issue of violence against women and what women can and should do to retaliate. Efficient at times, confusing at others, pic looks destined to become more a source of discussion than a box office hit. It should, however, be popular on the fest circuit.

With:
With: Tanjalotta Raikka, Leena Klemola, Pertti Sveholm, Kari Sorvali, Anna-Elina Lyytikainen, Elsa Saisio, Elja Vilpas, Kaarina Hazard, Maaria Rantanen, Irma Junnilainen, Johan Storgard, Heikki Nousiainen, Sulevi Peltola.

Based on a controversial 1995 bestseller about female vigilantes, “Geography of Fear” is a Finnish film that tries to debate the issue of violence against women and what women can and should do to retaliate. Efficient at times, confusing at others, pic looks destined to become more a source of discussion than a box office hit. It should, however, be popular on the fest circuit.

Pic’s leading character is Oili Lyyra (Tanjalotta Raikka), a forensic dentist , who’s shown going to work on a rotting corpse that has been found in Helsinki harbor. Her b.f., Eero (Kari Sorvali), is a policeman in charge of the investigation. There are no clues as to who the dead man is or what he died of, but it becomes clear he was dead when he landed in the water. The problem is to find out exactly where his body was thrown into the brine.

Oili has a sister, Laura (Anna-Elina Lyytikainen), who lives with a group of other women in an affluent part of the city. When Oili meets the women, she doesn’t take to them and senses there is something mysterious about the group.

Meanwhile, a driving instructor, Rainer (Pertti Sveholm), has been getting fresh with his young female clients, one of whom retaliates by spray painting his car. Laura and her pals have heard of Rainer’s behavior and decide to teach him a lesson.

It comes as little surprise that the women are a bunch of vigilantes who have taken it upon themselves to punish male bullies. They also turn out to be responsible for the corpse found in the harbor, even though they claim it was an accident. Oili finds herself drawn more and more into their circle; the question is whether she’ll join them in their crusade or turn them in.

Pic doesn’t condone vigilantism and is more about mutual respect between the sexes: If men stop beating women, women won’t need to strike back. Oili comes over as a confused character who is torn between her belief in upholding the law and the need for swift justice — a common theme in films such as this — and the open ending lends itself to continued debate.

Performances and tech credits are both good, with sophomore director Auli Mantila making good use of her Helsinki locations. The movie is, however, very predictable at times: When, for instance, one of the women in Laura’s group enters a dark wood by herself, the audience doesn’t need a degree in drama to know that the outcome is bound to be tragic. The side story of the girl-groping driving instructor also feels as if it’s hanging loose, without any real connection to the rest of the film.

Geography of Fear

(FINLAND-DENMARK-GERMANY)

Production: A Blind Spot Pictures, YTV1 (Finland)/Zentropa Prods. (Denmark)/Wuste Filmproduktion, NDR, Arte (Germany) production. (International sales: Trust Film Sales, Denmark.) Produced by Tero Kaukomaa. Directed by Auli Mantila. Screenplay Mantila, based on the novel by Anja Kauranen.

Crew: Camera (color), Heikki Farm; editor, Kimmo Taavila; music, Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson; art directors, Jukka Uusitalo, Tiina Tuovinen; costume designer, Johanna Hanninen; sound (Dolby Digital), Risto Iisalo. Reviewed at Gothenburg Film Festival, Feb. 2, 2000. (Also in Berlin Film Festival -- Forum.) Running time: 110 MIN.

With: With: Tanjalotta Raikka, Leena Klemola, Pertti Sveholm, Kari Sorvali, Anna-Elina Lyytikainen, Elsa Saisio, Elja Vilpas, Kaarina Hazard, Maaria Rantanen, Irma Junnilainen, Johan Storgard, Heikki Nousiainen, Sulevi Peltola.With: Tanjalotta Raikka, Leena Klemola, Pertti Sveholm, Kari Sorvali, Anna-Elina Lyytikainen, Elsa Saisio, Elja Vilpas, Kaarina Hazard, Maaria Rantanen, Irma Junnilainen, Johan Storgard, Heikki Nousiainen, Sulevi Peltola.

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