Looking back on Midnight Sun Film Festival 2013

Moving images beyond the horizon

It is shortly before midnight as a silver car heads along a lonely country road through the never-ending forests of Lapland. The sun does not only glimmer at the horizon, its light is so intense that it hurts the eye. White reindeers are grazing at the roadside, almost rendered invisible by this powerful glow. As the car stops right next to them, the animals look up briefly. Reindeers are very graceful creatures, but unfortunately „pretty stupid“ as my brother-in-law Sebastian explains. For a little while we are watching this unique natural spectacle before we continue our journey. I can see a reindeer trotting on the street in the rearview mirror. Curiously it looks after us, and just like me, it has no clue what I am about to experience here in Sodankylä, Finland, more than 100 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle.

Sodankylä has about as much in common with Berlin as a conifer has with a Spätkauf. Except for the fact that you find a lot of them in each place respectively. Living far away from the rest of the world, its residents are shy and reserved (yes, even more than the Germans are already defined by cliché). Eye contacts are rare, smiles even more seldom. Only after having a few drinks the Finn suddenly turns into a talkative, open-minded and warm-hearted friend. Here, alcohol does not only dilate blood vessels, but also hearts.

Whereas the Finnish landscape is so beautiful and magical, the output of national film productions is apparently rather poor and sad: „When it comes to movies, Finland is a third-world country,“ says festival director Peter von Bagh at the evening of the opening screening without hiding his personal regret. Nevertheless, the Midnight Sun Film Festival was founded 28 years ago and is thus as old as I am. The opening film „Fists in the pocket“ by Marco Bellocchio comes without any digital rework, but with many scratches and an almost antiquarian aura. Before „Invasion of the Body Snatchers“ follows, director and special guest Philip Kaufman enters the stage. Unfortunately, he needs more than twenty minutes to tell the story of a naked homeless guy who interrupted the shooting of the film back in 1978 just to inform everyone on set that he liked the original film from 1956 way better. After Kaufman had his way too long moment on stage, we finally enjoy watching Donald Sutherland fight the extra-terrestrial terror plants, including many close-ups of his fancy porn star moustache and his adorable curly hair. As we leave the cinema afterwards, the sun once again does not give a damn that it is the middle of the night. Without any mercy it makes you feel as if you had just spent three days partying excessively at Berghain. Bye bye biorhythm!

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