Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, one of the major discoveries of the 2010 Festival del film Locarno, where it had a highly successful midnight screening on the Piazza Grande (and won the Variety Prize) is – finally! – released today in Paris, at an appropriate time, and entitled Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, after having won numerous awards on the specialised international festival film circuit.
A new example of the vitality of European sci-fi and fantasy cinema, Rare Exports should open Hollywood studios doors for its director, Finnish filmmaker Jalmari Helander. He had previously made several shorts films, two of which may be seen as sketches for this first feature, and which had already drawn attention for their originality and visual style.
Helander has learned from the modern sci-fi classics made by John Carpenter, James Cameron and Steven Spielberg. There is no doubt that these three directors and their numerous admirers will appreciate the references and tributes to The Thing, Aliens and E.T. that appear throughout Jalmari Helander’s début feature, shot with great panache and an instinctive feel for the spectacle of the vast, empty and snow-filled spaces of his native country. His mise en scène is thorough and effective, and he succeeds in creating a disturbing atmosphere and building tension in the narrative. The filmmaker draws on Scandinavian legends and folklore that surround the famous, jovial bearded old man who distributes toys during the night of Saint Sylvester, to create a dark and disturbing story.
If such a category existed, one could call Rare Exports a horror film for kids. But it would be equally correct to see it as a Christmas tale for adults. Rare Exports is the kind of film that it is better not to know anything about before viewing, since there are so many surprises in store that will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout. It is a real pleasure to feel oneself succumb to the film’s gambit of taking a serious approach to a quite fantastical story, one that is unlikely to leave anyone unmoved. There’s also scope for endless enjoyment of the perversity of a film that, in the era of political correctness, has fun showing Father Christmas as an emaciated psychopath alongside his libidinous and endlessly priapic elves who are prone to indulgence in group exhibitionism to young kids, out in the open on an ice-floe, regardless of the ferocious sub-zero temperature. The ideal film for all those malicious spirits who find Christmas nauseating!