Honkasalo’s return to fiction competes for an Oscar nomination
by Jorn Rossing Jensen
- After an international festival tour, Pirjo Honkasalo’s Concrete Night – her first feature in 15 years – joins the nomination race
Finnish director-cinematographer Pirjo Honkasalo's Concrete Night [+see also:
film profile], which cleaned up at this year’s Jussi Awards – Finland’s national film prizes – will be the Finnish submission for the Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign-Language Film. The Finnish Oscar Committee praised its exceptionally fine cinematography and touching story, “which create an impressive world that is both poetic and unique”, it remarked as it selected Honkasalo's first feature in 15 years.
Scripted with Finnish author Pirkko Saisio and based on Saisio’s novel, Concrete Night received six Jussis, including Best Film and Best Director. It was launched in the Masters programme at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, and while touring the festival circuit, it has most recently won the Golden Arena for Best Feature in Pula (Croatia). The film was released domestically on 1 November by Cinema Mondo, while London-based Film Republic handles international sales.
Finnish actors Johannes Brotherus and Jari Virman play the leads in Honkasalo’s depiction of two brothers during 24 hours in Helsinki – the last moments of freedom for Ilkka, who is getting ready to serve a prison sentence. His younger brother, 14-year-old Simo, admires him boundlessly and learns some unwise life lessons from him. “It is not a film about school killings, mass murderers or the Chechen brothers in Boston, but about a young mind that was shattered long before the all-encompassing misanthropy may have got a hold of it,” explained Honkasalo.
Her first feature since the award-winning Fire-Eater (1998) was staged by Finnish producers Mark Lwoff and Misha Jaari, for Bufo, with Sweden's Plattform and Denmark's Magic Hour. In between, Honkasalo has photographed, among others, Finnish director Jörn Donner's The Interrogation (2009) – Donner is the only Finn so far to win an Oscar, for producing Swedish director Ingmar Bergman's Fanny and Alexander (1982), which took home four of them.