“Mister 8,” a Finnish comedy series produced by It’s Alive Films, is set to make its international debut at Canneseries. In this meet cute turned meet-your-competition, Juho (Pekka Strang) pits himself against his love interest Maria’s (Krista Kosonen) six other partners – one for each day of the week. Maria, a wealthy and powerful CEO, has each man comfortably under her control, until Juho uses his wits to weaponize jealousy in the ranks, and hilarity ensues.
Shot in black and white, “Mister 8” takes a stylized approach to its comedy, eschewing jokes for situational and absurdist visual humor. Teemu Nikki directs, having successfully partnered with producer Jani Pösö before – Nikki directed “The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic,” which in September won the Armani Beauty Audience Award in the new Horizons Extra section of the Venice Film Festival. They also made the 2017 film “Euthanizer,” which was selected as the Finnish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film – now International Feature – at the 91st Academy Awards.
Variety spoke with director Teemu Nikki and producer Jani Pösö ahead of the film screening at Canneseries.
The story of “Mister8” challenges gender norms while remaining playful and tongue-in-cheek. Was it difficult to strike this balance?
Teemu Nikki: No, it was not. The idea was there is no fooling around, that no one acts like you traditionally do in comedies. In practice what we did was a thriller with a comedy plot.
Jani Pösö: When it comes to gender, Finland is pretty equal. From our perspective I’d say that we challenged the expectations of your own relationship more than gender roles.
What inspired the choice to film the series completely in black and white?
Nikki: I wanted to create a unique universe and of course we wanted the series to stand out from the crowd. We did not have any particular references – we did not want to make film noir, but to create a modern black and white look.
Pösö: Love is black and white. And everything Teemu is saying is true.
How did you develop the character of Maria? She is a very unique and complex character.
Nikki: Maria is a control-freak, who wants to have the most perfect companion. She ends up creating a” monster of Frankenstein,” which has the best parts of seven different men. She is afraid of love, although she would like to get more love from her dad.
Pösö: Teemu did a brilliant job with the actors; that’s what he usually does when he works. Also, Krista helped develop Maria’s character quite a lot. She made her feel like a real person.
Do you think “Mister 8” is a format which could travel? It’s Alive Films has had international success with remakes of “Mental” in France, Italy, Germany and Poland.
Nikki: It will definitely travel!
Pösö: In what format is a good question! I truly hope that – both in remake, and readymade. But you never know!