Helsinki Syndrome: Scandi Noir in the Sunshine

There are clichés about Finns and their nation that Jim Jarmusch and Aki Kurismäki have not completely exonerated. Anyone who finds “Night on Earth” or “The Man Without a Past” realistic can regard the country and its people as an example of mortal sorrow, plunging the former into a drunken slumber, depriving the latter of any strength to rebel. Elias Karo is the exception to the rule that Finnish fiction and reality coincide. In the end he takes matters into his own hands.

Because bad loans from infamous banks drove his company to ruin and Pekka’s father committed suicide, the son blew up the editorial building of an important newspaper in Helsinki and forced four journalists to write at gunpoint about the inhumane financial system that has been bleeding middle-class Finland ever since. 1992. Thus begins a thriller series with an anti-capitalist movement, narrated by Beta-Film in eight parts, each 50 minutes long, in collaboration with NDR, Arte and local station YLE.

Above all, however, this topic is not called by screenwriter Mika Okkonen, in reference to the phenomenon of fraternity between hostages and hostage-takers known as “Stockholm Syndrome”, coincidentally “Helsinki Syndrome”. Under the guidance of Juuso Syrjä, who already Oikkonen turned “Bordertown” crime series into a street sweeper in 2016, it’s not only Karo’s victims who silently sympathize with their captor; The audience also shows their solidarity with David in the fight against Goliath Bad Banks.

While “Vikings” star Peter Franzen condemns his prisoners Hanna (Ona Irola), Gus (Eero Saarinen), Evelina (Tulia Eloranta) and Ann (Laura Malmivara) to press satire, there is a gap between the police operation of the kidnapped specialist. Kiiski (Taneli Mäkelä) and Flashbacks Karo’s career as a major criminal is a political drama about the state crises of the past decades. And director Syrjä likes to display this as a typical Scandi Noir-type piece; In the end, nothing was left of the clichés about the Finnish movie characters.

This in turn is due to the fact that the plot (of course) takes different turns from the biblical war whale versus the little whale. This filming location has only marginal relation to the dreary, underdeveloped, enveloping, perpetually overcast atmosphere in Helsinki Yarmush or Korismäki. Bright, modern, extroverted, and often sunny, Helsinki is won over with ambitious personalities like star reporter Hanna, who sends Karo to Finland’s capital in search of a missing page in his quest.

Because the leading actress, also known from “Bordertown,” maintains her journalistic hunting instincts despite cable ties and website trackers on her leg, “Helsinki Syndrome” is above all a play on the fourth force between the economic and political spheres. “Do your job and find out the truth,” Elias yells when Hanna suspects his bank may not have done anything illegal, “that’s your job.” In fact, they do so as if the hijacker were their editor.

What is most striking is that this sparsely populated giant country with a population much smaller than the inhabitants of Lower Saxony produces high quality television. Even in the original translated into English, “Helsinki Syndrome” sparkles with an atmosphere that captivates and calms at the same time. It sprinkles motion elements into moments of absolute stillness and, without gimmicks, cancels out some old stereotypes about the site. The most important thing: the prejudices are always from yesterday. Finland is long gone. Imaginary too.

“Helsinki Syndrome” will soon be showing on Arte, but there’s no definitive broadcast date yet.

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