“Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale” - Heartwarming, But Not For Kids
It’s a fuck you to the Coca-Cola Santa Claus so prominent in U.S. culture.
And though the film manages to bash all preconceived notions of the holiday, it’s still heartwarming in its own weird and wacky way.
“Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale,” started off as a short film in 2003 (“Rare Exports Inc.”) and 2005 (“The Official Rare Exports Inc. Safety Instructions”) and expanded into its feature length showpiece.
Pietari (Onni Tommila) and Juuso (Ilmari Järvenpää) are 10-year-old boys who spy on scientists excavating something huge, deep in the Korvatunturi mountains in Lapland, Finland.
By powers of deduction and insight, Pietari soon realizes that the thing the scientists are looking for could be Santa, but not the fat and joyful St. Nick that American kids love.
Borrowing from Scandinavian folklore, Finnish director Jalmari Helander imagined a world where Santa Claus was an evil, bloodthirsty satanic being who lowered little children into a vat of boiling death when they made his naughty list.
Soon, scientists and reindeers are slaughtered and children from the nearby village are disappearing, including Pietari’s best friend Juuso.
Pietari’s father, Rauno, sets up a wolf trap in front of their house and inadvertently saves Pietari from the same fate.
Rauno (Jorma Tommila) and Pietari live a harsh life. But with all of Rauno’s gruffness, the film does an excellent job at showing how much he loves his son. They share a brief moment of love through freshly baked gingerbread cookies and just like that, “Rare Exports” becomes much deeper than a Santa Claus movie.
Pietari matures from an adorable little boy into an assertive leader, armed with his books and research on the deadly Santa. You root for him all the way.
The beings responsible for all the mayhem are a bunch of naked (and really old) men. In a great scene, Pietari leads them into an electrified animal pen while he’s attached to the hook of a helicopter.
Helander filmed in northern Norway and found the men through a local choir.
“They had, like, forty seconds to shoot. Then they had to go spend twenty minutes inside [because of the cold]. They'd go in this really hot room where they played cards completely naked, and they drank some coffee,” said Helander.
“I was afraid one of them was going to have a heart attack. I'm lucky no one didn't!"
The one thing that would’ve been nice to see is the big bad monster in the end, but Helander said that if he were given the opportunity to make a sequel, the potential film would be a very expensive catastrophic event and audiences will then get a chance to see the “main motherfucker.”
“Rare Exports” is a must see in theaters. The clean, white snow, sweeping landscape and small commentary on the commercialization of Christmas is meant for the big screen. It’s not easily categorized into a horror, comedy, action or drama film, but rather encompasses all and crosses genres fluidly.
It’s the best anti-Christmas Christmas movie you’ll ever see.