Monday, December 08, 2014

Seen It: Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)


My introduction to the world of Rare Exports came two years ago when I  happened upon a film short entitled Rare Exports Inc. (2003), and its sequel Rare Exports: The Official Safety Instructions (2005). Produced and directed by Norwegian filmmakers Jalmari and Juuso Helander, both were produced as faux documentaries, and collaboratively contributed to developing a mythos around the exportation "distinguished, extremely rare products" to faraway countries from the wilds of Lapland (Finland).

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010) is the full-length fantasy film directed by Jalmari Helander that takes elements from both and develops them into a singular  origin story of sorts for the company's product about whom the earlier two "infomercials" are made. Set near the Korvatunturi mountain, Rare Exports tells of a young boy who inadvertently discovers the secret behind the "real" Santa Claus.

The film focuses on a group of local reindeer herders whose Christmas is disturbed by excavations on the mountain. A scientist has ordered a team of workers to dig open what he calls "the largest burial mound in the world". An explosive used by the team uncovers what is referred to as a "sacred grave". However, the occupant of the grave is still alive. Soon, the reindeer important to the local people are mysteriously killed, and children and supplies begin to disappear from the town. It emerges that the occupant is the source of the original Santa Claus myth; a supernatural being who, rather than rewarding good children, punishes the naughty. One family, however, manages to catch the culprit in a trap, and plans to sell it to the scientist to cover the losses caused by his excavation.
Jorma Tommila and Onni Tommila.

The tonally, the film deftly shifts from being a tale of a hard-working community suffering through financial times in the holiday season to a horror-noir. The soundtrack by Juri Seppä and Miska Seppä provides subtly auditory transitions, while never jerking the viewer out of the film experience. If the marketing of the film weren't so holiday-themed, the surprise and twists (of which there are a few) might carry even greater impact. The beautiful cinematography by Mika Orasmaa, as well as the superb performances by Jorma Tommila and Onni Tommila, as the father and son, respectively, at the center of the story, lend this movie an eerie mid-Eighties Spielberg-Carpenter vibe. Touching, scary, and beautifully rendered, this holiday-horror-fantasy does something extremely unique (at least in my experience) in recent film: it begs to be re-watched.

In a more discerning world, Rare Exports would find its way to becoming a cult-Christmas favorite, so help get that ball rolling by watching it on direct stream via Netflix this holiday season!

Never a good idea to tease "Santa" with a gingerbread man cookie!
Sources:
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale Wikipedia Entry


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