Looking back on Midnight Sun Film Festival 2013

Moving images beyond the horizon

Besides licorice liquor and ridiculously expensive beer there is also something else that helps the Finns to switch from intro- to extroverted: karaoke – which is not just considered as a funny leisure activity here, but as a serious cultural event. The following evening I find myself sitting in the big circus tent to watch the karaoke-screening of „Grease„, where lyrics on the screen invite everybody to sing along. While I am still wondering if this will work out for the audience, John Travolta almost receives standing ovations as he appears on the screen for the first time. Even two producers of the film were invited to sing along with microphones. As it turns out, the audience seems to know every single line of the musical, whereas the producers obviously fail at several points (which is quite embarrassing – since you guys MADE the movie!). After we all have internalized that “Grease is the word”, the party goes on at the very popular and apparently only bar in town. Young and old clink their glasses here while a band proves to cover 90s Hits by Greenday or The Offspring very professionally. The Finns like to dress up alternatively; dreadlocks, ponchos and the common wood gnome look are still very trendy. It is strange that apparently some locals take me for being one of their peers, but apart from „Hei“ (Hello), „Hei hei“ (Bye) „Ei“ (No) and „Kiitos“ (Thank you) Finnish is way too complicated for me.

On the third day of the festival two Finnish productions are on my agenda: In „Things We Do for Love“ a shy photographer falls in love with a very aggressive, white trashy woman, but just as she starts to return his affection, her ex-husband, who just got out of jail, shows up. In the end, she takes none of them and decides to move to a trailer park with a weird Norwegian. What a stupid bitch. The following movie „The Surrealist and His Naughty Hand“ turns out to be an experimental biopic about the Finnish painter Kalervo Palsa (1947-1987), who – like so many – drew his inspiration from paranoid fantasies about sex and violence. It all starts when Kalervo receives a bunch of brushes from a creepy monster Santa Clause wearing a boar mask. Weeks later, when Kalervo has already discovered his passion for painting, the same, now totally pissed Santa Clause is still hanging out at the Palsa’s house and then finally vomits on the table during breakfast to say goodbye. Are you kids in the audience still looking forward to Christmas?

At night, I have the choice between a media party, where I could dance around the campfire with other drunken press representatives, and the screening of „Indiana Jones – Raiders of the Lost Ark„. Because it has not stopped pouring down for hours, I opt for the latter. Again, the Finns are totally amazed by the action on the screen, no matter if Harrison Ford just shot an Egyptian or a Nazi. Coming from a cinema culture where sit-down-and-shut-up is the rule and old movies are often regarded as cheesy and ridiculous, it is a bit strange to observe this phenomenon. But at 03:15 am my time for an emotional overdose has come: „The Stone Roses: Made of Stone“, whose director Shane Meadows also brought his wonderful „This is England“ to the screen a few years ago, proves to be breathtaking and incredibly touching for the Midnight Sun audience. Meadows is not interested in taking a long explanatory journey through the ups and downs of the band’s history. Instead, he takes his time to play songs like „I Wanna Be Adored“ and „She Bangs the Drums“ in full length, and combines it alongside archive material with crystal-clear HD images. The result is an aesthetic perfection which is almost unbearably beautiful. For me, the film feels like travelling two years back in time, when Berlin was a constant reminder of painful memories to me during the day and my escape to hedonism during the night – a phase for which the Stone Roses album from 1989 provided the perfect soundtrack. That night, not only the rain drops through the roof of the tent.

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