Under Your Skin (1966)

23 03 2008

A major staple of the Finnish New Wave and also, most likely a result of Finnish hippies getting their hands on a camera. And yet, I couldn’t help but totally love this. It’s quite an achievement for the film to shed it’s “gee shucks, look how silly and self-reflective we are” image (a la the overrated Daises) and become such a oddly moving masterpiece. Considering it’s ambitions, which are quite large, it’s not perfect per se, but it does capture everything that cinematic capabilities could do up to that point in time. Similarly, there are some minor narrative-related flaws but ultimately, they don’t taint the wonderful visuals. A wonderful film with some self-indulgent excess, but I guess most great films technically have some of that.

The “plot” revolves around two urban intellectual couples, both of which are going through awkward stages. Santtu, who tends to become the film’s main character, is going nowhere with Riita, a seemingly naive girl with dreams of marriage. Timo is a bit more carefree (and in all truth, a bit annoying at times) and is in a relationship with Leena, a quiet girl with severe emotional damage. All four take a trip into the forest and with a little help from alcohol, fun times are had. Bored by his current relationship, Santtu soon takes an interest in Leena, which is for the most part what the film is centered around.

There’s a few silly lapse of simple logic that damage my overall admiration for the film, such as the really bad musical interludes, which are on occasion, sung by the actual characters. Dumb scenes like that further advance that Daises-esque silly sensibility that I’m not extremely fond of. There’s another really just terrible in which Timo and Santtu reenact how they meet that just oozes smug self-conciousness. In fact, the Timo character is sort of annoying and wasteful: a giraffe shaped goof ball meant to provide comedic relief. Thankfully, his role in the film is downplayed considerably.

I’d go as far as to say that everything else in the film is perfect. There are some sequences that ultimately try to push the film into a “lighter” realm, but the amount of poetic images is just simply too overwhelming. There’s actually more than a few signs of that weird Herzog-type surrealism. A perfect example being when the farmers chase that pig around or when horses randomly run around in the forest. The attention towards textures is pretty much unheard of in 1966, with a few small (and equally great) exceptions. The accusations of a Godard rip-off seem completely off-base since the visual style is built upon a completely different focus. Sure, there’s some Godard style editing, but for the most part, this is a completely unique aesthetic. Like Bertolucci’s great Before the Revolution, it’s a product of Godard’s influence, but one that is not limited to his boundaries.

For what it’s worth, I also quite like the relationship setup of Santtu and Leena. He is a alienated rebel, and she’s reserved but deeply hurt. I guess I’ve seen such things enough in cinema to classify this as a relationship “structure” that I’m quite fond of. It certainly doesn’t hurt that whenever they are together, the film produces it’s most poetic moments, i.e the scene where Santtu touches Leena’s face. Their scenes also seem the most non-physically dramatic. There’s a type of complexity in both of them that prevents them from articulating their feelings, an Antonioni touch you could say. Though again, it should be reinforced just how unique this is compared to the other art films of the time period. It’s a shame the Finnish New Wave is so underexposed. Judging only from this film, it’s a movement that may not be as defiant as the new waves in Japan or France, but in all truth, probably more substantial. Whatever the case, this film is just really fantastic. More people should see it.

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One response

23 03 2008
John John

I’m post-hippie.

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