Rippling, oozing, flowing: Concrete Night is moody Finish noir film awash in smoke and liquids. Submerged at the start, the camera shows us the main character, a teenage boy named Simo (Johannes Brotherus), struggling in a dream sequence to swim through ink-dark water. Throughout the film, we see his boyish face obscured in a mirror by steam or cigarette smoke, suggesting that Simo’s identity is yet unclear, even to himself. He is, after all, at the cusp of adulthood, and he doesn’t quite yet know who he wants to be. Does he follow in the footsteps of his brother, who’s about to go to prison in a matter of days? Or does he take after his mother, who’s a prostitute in all but name?
As though in a dream, the film moves languidly through a day in Simo’s life. Light is either markedly absent or overpowering, and sounds (especially those of liquids) gurgle up to a quasi-surreal, disorientating effect. Cinematographer Peter Flinckenberg deserves credit for making Helsinki (or part of it) into a cityscape where industry and poverty intersect, forming an architecture of hard-edged desperation. These visuals, dimmed even more by means of a melancholic soundtrack, provide the film with gravity when the plot, occasionally, feels like it’s dead in the water.
The story is essentially about Simo trying to impress his brother before he leaves for prison. The two go out together while their mom is allegedly out of town, and Simo is introduced to his brother’s silly brand of nihilism. Simo is told that women like to be hit and that scorpions (not cockroaches) will one day inherit the earth after mankind’s inevitable nuclear annihilation. Thus, nothing matters. The night ends with each brother in a potential sexual encounter, and Simo’s concludes much more cruelly than his brother’s. This ushers forth an emotional crescendo that brings to mind, visually, the most powerful scenes of Lars von Trier. While Concrete Night’s murky yet gushing images capture wonderfully a sense of emotional confusion, one wishes that the story flowed along at a little quicker clip.
Concrete Night is playing today at 9:45 p.m. at the St. Anthony Main Theatre.
Other Highlights: Tuesday, April 8
Club Sandwich Fernando Eimbcke (Mexico) In this coming of age/learning-to-let-go comedy, a single mom vies for the attention of her teenage son after he happens upon a cute girl while on vacation. With tenderness, Eimbcke dissects the three-way relationship, exposing vulnerabilities on all sides. With its combination of humor and pathos, this is sure to be a festival favorite. (9:10 p.m.)
Metro Manila Sean Ellis (UK, Philippines) Things go from bad to worse for the poor characters in this slow-burner about rice farmers trying to find a better life in the big city. Tensions rise continually as Oscar (Jake Macapagal) tries to provide for his family, and eventually the movie morphs into a crime drama that goes out with something of a bang. (9: 30 p.m.)
The Galapagos Affair Daniel Geller, Dayna Goldfine (U.S) Part whodunit, part Robinson Crusoe epic, this documentary tells the story of a German doctor who traveled to the Galapagos Islands in the 1930s to live an Adam-and-Eve lifestyle with an admirer, but both die mysteriously in the process. Featuring amazing footage of their life on the island — and the bizarre characters who went to join them — The Galapagos Affair is an enthralling examination of human ambition that’ll have you theorizing just how it all went to hell. (4:30 p.m.)
For the festival schedule, and a complete listing of all the movies being shown, click here. Ticket information is available here.
Throughout the entirety of the 2014 Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival, we’ll be spotlighting one notable movie each day, along with other notable screenings. To see the WCCO Movie Blog’s complete coverage on the MSPIFF, click here.