Sunday, 16 February 2014


Simo is a pallid, supple slip of a kid. His skin is smooth in texture, almost translucent in appearance in the dusky incandescence, full of moisture yet bitterly cold. His expression is guileless, his cheeks rounded, his smile carefree and his laugh shrill and feminine and utterly captivating. In the thin, insipid rain and against such brutish surroundings - the cramped, purpose-built housing in an industrial landscape in which all nature seems purged save the sporadic and unwelcome invasion of a mere suggestion of natural life - Simo is an anomaly. He is fourteen, and feels he must adopt a character of his own, not least now his older brother awaits incarceration in a matter of days. He must drink and smoke and fight and be the man of the house, and take care of his mother, whose demeanour rivals her habitat for sheer dilapidation. What pulls Simo back from this artificial burgeoning manhood are desires and requirements he is thoroughly unfamiliar with, and thus frightened by. He lacks his brother's hardiness and self-confidence, and indeed his inhumanity, and cannot afford to yield to temptations, however well they may objectively suit him, that would only set him further apart from the man he intends to become. Pirjo Honkasalo's eloquent and hugely perceptive film allows Simo some brief interludes, and they are certainly brief, of comfort and a small degree of elucidation, though they are tempered by a tension that insidiously encircles pressure upon our protagonist. He is capable of escape, of moments of fantasy and naivety. But he is equally capable of succumbing to the harsher emotions he otherwise evades, and of acting in an irrational manner - an adolescent manner, since, at fourteen, he is assuredly not yet a man. Honkasalo's film is exquisitely designed, with a subtly enveloping sound mix and Peter Flinckenberg's ravishing cinematography.