Jukka Kärkkäinen: The Living Room of the Nation

Could it be everywhere? Yes, the film has many layers and thus a universal appeal. Is it very Finnish? Yes, it has this special feel of Finnish humour and treats its theme with both tough directness and tenderness. Is it good? Yes, more than that, it is excellent. Why? Because the director has something on his mind and has thought of form and thus avoided to make just another poverty story about poor people with poor lives and too much alcohol.

People and their stories. A classical documentary theme. Ordinary people of different age, from different places in Finland. They are in their living rooms the whole film through (apart from the very ending, not to be revealed), they sit, they lie, they talk about their life, their parents, their children, or to each other, or fight with each other or cry together, of joy or out of sadness.

This minimalistic approach is underligned by the way the camera is placed without any movement recording what happens within the frame. Or one could say on the stage of Life. It gives a distance, it gives you respect for the people you are watching, and, the more you get into the film, also compassion for their destinies. The main character is the young man, who becomes a father – you never see the mother – and knows that a new life must begin, without alcohol. Towards the end of the film you hear him say that he can only see his child once a week. He is indeed a tragic character, as is the big man who moves from one apartment to another, a smaller one, where he gets his arm chair placed at the point for watching television. The filmmakers must have been with the characters for a very long time. It all seems so truthful what we are invited to watch, most of the time with a sad feeling but as in a play of Samuel Beckett or a film of Roy Andersson, the interpretation of meaningless goes well with humour. And bravo for an editing that elegantly takes us from one situation and character to the next and the next… and back again.

Finland, 2009, 79 mins.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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