Frozen Land (Paha maa) Review

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A school teacher loses his wife, his job and his humour and takes it out on his son, who sets off a whole series of events by palming off a forged banknote on a pawnshop.


Initially using a forged $500 note to link the characters in a roundelay of cruel caprice, Finnish director Aku Louhimies explores the idea that life is what we make of the misfortunes that come our way. Yet this never becomes a clichéd exercise in Scandinavian miserabilism, as both Louhimies and his ensemble consistently suggest lives being lived, whether it’s Sulevi Peltola’s alcoholic Hoover salesman running amok or teacher Petteri Summanen dealing with the horrendous death of his depressed cop wife.

Although its opening segment draws on the Tolstoy story that inspired Robert Bresson’s L’Argent, Louhimies takes Ingmar Bergman and Aki Kaurismäki as his mentors for this superb treatise on chance, coincidence and the purpose of existence.

Leavened throughout with flashes of decency and dark comedy, this excellent ensemble treatise on the meaning of life echoes Bergman and Kaurismäki in establishing its own distinctive style and engaging tone.