FROZEN LAND (Aku Louhimies, 2005)

Using the same story by Leo Tolstoi that Robert Bresson used for his marvelous L’argent (1983), Finnish writer-director Aku Louhimies—Paavo Westerberg and Jari Rantala also contributed to the script—has made Paha maa, which follows a chain-reaction of human catastrophes and miseries. The action begins when a schoolteacher loses his post and his teenaged son, who is irked when his single father sells the television set and CD-player in order to pay for their necessities. Tolstoi’s “false coupon” becomes the counterfeit bill that the boy concocts, using a friend’s computer, to replace the addicted-to items—unnecessary things, given that their home is full of books. Once in circulation, the counterfeit note continues the chain of woes befalling individuals whose paths cross.
     The film won eight Jussi Awards—best film, direction, and script included. In addition, it won major prizes at an assortment of festivals. Nevertheless, it is an unremittingly unpleasant thing, witlessly written, slack, downbeat to the point that I wonder if it has provoked audience-member suicides. (I’m not kidding.) Along its trail of ruined lives, there is a single redemption, but this hardly makes up for the movie’s storm of misery.
     Dreadful from start to finish.

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