It’s that time of year again and everyone is looking forward to watching those classic Christmas films we have all seen dozens of time: Home Alone, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Die Hard and so forth. Filmmakers are constantly trying to find new and creative ways to tell stories centred on Christmas and what sometimes happens recently is Christmas itself becomes a background to whatever the main story of the film is. Not so, with 2010 Finnish film Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale.
Writer, director Jalmari Helander takes on the story of “the real Santa Claus” head first in an action-packed horror/fantasy that grabs you and storms through its 81 minutes. The film opens with American scientists in the Korvatunturi Mountains, on the Finnish/Russian border, excavating the landscape which is known to be a vast burial mound and a “sacred grave”. The trouble starts when the occupant of this grave is in fact still alive.
After the mass slaughter of some local reindeer, a small group of herders set off on a revenge mission into the mountains. Young boy Pietari is much more knowledgeable about what is really happening, having researched into the true origin story of jolly ol’ Father Christmas who it turns out is not as interested in rewarding children who were good as punishing those who were bad. I had previously heard of this version of Santa Claus in folklore but I have never seen it portrayed with such conviction.
Onni Tammila does well as the misunderstood Pietari who still believes in “fairy-tales”. When his moment to shine comes towards the very fun climax of the film (including a nice alternative theory of just how Santa get around the world in one night) it feels like he has earned it and we want him to ultimately triumph.
Rare Exports is a great-looking film too. Already effortlessly beautiful thanks to the landscape itself, the efficient use of computer-generated imagery and some fantastic character design add another level of visual appeal.
If you are looking for an alternative Christmas film to see this year (or better still to add to the bunch of classics you watch every year), I would struggle to find a reason not to recommend you check out Rare Exports; unless, that is , you still believe in Santa Claus. Hyvää Joulua!
RATING: SEE IT
[Rating system: See it / See it cheap / Skip it]