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Dark people make dark films

My next film is about the civil war. It will not be exactly hilarious.

A darkish undertone exists in a large number of Finnish films, although lighter subject matters are made into film too, there is often something very artificial about them, like a forced smile. After all these years of Americanisation, genuinely positive films are few in Finland – you might point out that ”genuine” positivity is rare in the US too.

Are we a dark people? To some extent the answer is yes. Slavic, Finnish and Icelandic people very often find each other due to the same dark sense of humour. An Icelandic colleague once asked an international crowd what does a used condom and the M/S Estonia (a ship that sunk with 800 passengers about 10 years ago) have in common? They are both full of dead se(a)men. I laughed as well as the Russian guy, but the others stared at the Icelandic lady in anger.

A dark sense of humour means laughing at death, at the fragile and temporary nature of human existence, but I think it is vital to distinguish that from cynicism. Acceptance of irreversible death does not mean that there would not be hope in the world. There is.

Paha Maa (Frozen land) was a very unlikely box office hit, proving once again that depiction of sorrow can be appealing to audiences. This year’s best film so far, Miehen työ (A Man's Job), is also very dark, but not at all without hope.

I think a lot depends on skills and the quality of thinking. Telling true stories where good prevails is not easy. Just like simplicity is one of the most difficult things to achieve in storytelling.

So, if too many Finnish films are depressing, it needn’t mean that we all are – maybe we just need to learn about filmmaking. Keep in mind the golden rule: 95% of the films in the world are crap. Look at the 5%.

I am a keen Marxist in two senses of the word, the other being an admirer of the late comedian Groucho Marx. In his autobiography he wrote about a deeply depressed man who went to see a doctor. The doctor tried various things but nothing seemed to help this poor man. Finally the doctor suggested that the man would go see the circus, he had heard that there is a clown called Delaney who is absolutely outrageously funny. I am Delaney the clown, replied the patient.

Yes, we are dark people and there is no need to change that. Let’s make dark films then. But they can still be enlightening, optimistic and amusing, only if we become good enough storytellers.

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