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BLACK NIGHTS 2023 First Feature Competition

Review: Giant’s Kettle


- Marku Hakala and Mari Käki’s debut is a meaningful and enthusiastic experiment that blends retro-futurism, a dark fairy tale and a love story

Review: Giant’s Kettle
Kirsi Paananen (centre) and Henri Malkki in Giant's Kettle

It is hard not to admire projects carried to completion by the enthusiasm of their makers alone. Giant’s Kettle [+see also:
interview: Markku Hakala, Mari Käki
film profile
, directed by Finnish filmmakers Markku Hakala and Mari Käki, is one of those films that can disarm even the harshest of critics: made on pure enthusiasm over the course of several years, with almost no budget and very limited crew, it wears the badge of passion project with pride. The film premiered in the First Feature Competition of the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.

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In a series of static one-take scenes with no dialogue, the directing duo tries to tell the timeless story of the ups and downs of a couple of awkward people who try to get along with themselves, with one another, and with a world slipping into decadence. He (Henri Malkki) is a factory engineer with higher ideas and ambitions, but with no means or luck to realise them. She (Kirsi Paananen) is a shy, clumsy academic who is left behind by the network of her male colleagues. The two meet in an almost fatal chance encounter, get married, have a son (Atte Vuori), but there is no “happily ever after” in this dark fairytale, since the world around them is changing rapidly and for the worse, affecting their relationship in the process.

The style Mäki and Hakala (the latter of whom also wrote the script, lensed and edited the film) opt for could be labelled as a very elaborate retro-futurism. The influences that can be observed vary from old silent black-and-white fantasy films and the Soviet masters such as Andrei Tarkovsky and the late Aleksei German Sr, to Roy Andersson, Guy Maddin’s experiments with retro science fiction, horror and fantasy, and even Kim Ki-duk, since the only “spoken” sound in the film is a scream. Hakala’s cinematography relies on precise compositions and plays with lighting and focus to stretch the greyscale black-and-white palette to its full spectrum, from mouldy green undertones to sepia overtones. His editing is also dramatically meaningful, the shift between fade to black and crossfades between scenes clearly significant.

Since there is no eligible dialogue, the acting has to become very physically expressive, but only to a certain point, which actors respect to the best of their abilities. Moreover, the lack of dialogue demands work on the soundscape, which is filled with howling drones for the most part of the runtime, while something that could qualify as music sets in only at the end of the film.

While the film’s background story is endearing and accessible, its largely experimental style might not seduce all viewers. However, with just 71 minutes of runtime, Giant’s Kettle certainly does not outstay its welcome, and proves that while Markku Hakala and Mari Käki may be hobbyist filmmakers, they did not end up making films by accident.

Giant’s Kettle is a Finnish production by Hakala+Käki Film Company.

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