Artsploitation Films impressed the hell out of me, with their first release of the Bengali film, Gandu, so I’ve been very eager to see what other types of films they’d be willing to explore with. Marked as their second title in their collection, Dome Karukosi’s Lapland Odyssey (Napapiirin Sankarit) is another welcome addition to the label and a fantastic comedy that manages to be crude, charming and an eclectic portrait of life in Northern Finland. Janne (Jussi Vatanen) is a jobless slacker that embarks on a mission to get a cable box for his girlfriend Inari (Pamela Tola). Along with his buddies Kapu (Jasper Pääkkönen) and Räihänen (Timo Lavikainen), Janne sets off on an adventure filled with paintball gun toting Russians, bikini clad sirens and crazy ex-boyfriends that get in their way at every turn. Filled with a great cast and a fun story, Lapland Odyssey is part road trip comedy, part coming of age story and all heart that made this film a real delight.
What makes Lapland work so well is its balance between its hijinks and dramatic undertones that create an engaging film. While on the surface it would seem that there’s no way that the audience can relate to Janne, a total slacker, screenwriter Pekko Pesonen places Janne into a real world setting, with his relationship with Inari. This along side Vatanen’s performance, gives us an unlikely hero that we easily follow into the snowy depths of Lapland, with no regrets whatsoever. Even the simple act of flipping a car over, after its hit a snow bank and crashed upside down, feels like a major victory for us, as Janne shouts “Perkele”, a mixture between damning the gods and victory. The chemistry between the three friends presents a well balanced dynamic, as each member is distinctly different and their goals, while related, are very much unique to each individual.
On a technical level, Lapland Odyssey works on multiple levels that most comedies aren’t even capable of. The script from Pekko Pesonen is fantastic, working on the same level of comedy and drama, along the lines of John Hughes’ 1987 classic Planes, Trains and Automobiles. The cinematography from Pini Hellstedt shows off the natural beauty of Northern Finland, along with a breathtaking sense of framing and overall aesthetic that makes Lapland unlike any comedy I’ve ever seen. There’s even a brilliant long take of a shot inside a bar, that shows the characters fighting outside of it and stays there until their opponents come back to finish the beers they left behind. While there are no video extras on the disc, the DVD comes with an 8-page booklet that has an introduction to the film by Karukosi, a wonderful essay by Travis Crawford and an interview with Karukosi, that goes into the production aspects as well as what he has in store for his next film.
Lapland Odyssey is a wonderful film that many people should be exposed to and another gem in Artsploitation Films’ catalog. While on the surface it may seem like a successor to something like Porky’s or American Pie, Lapland is a film with a bit of meat on its funny bones and is sure to delight anyone that chooses to spend time with it. Highly Recommended!