Juha Suonpää • Regista di Lynx Man
"Essere pazzi è un atto politico"
di Marta Bałaga
- Chi ha detto che l'amore di un uomo per le linci non possa salvare il mondo? Il protagonista di questo film, Hannu, sta chiaramente cercando di farlo
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The Lynx Man [+leggi anche:
intervista: Juha Suonpää
scheda film] is real: his name is Hannu. He claims to be able to understand the animals that others rarely get to see. Observing them via cameras hidden throughout the forest, he sees them suffer or cheat death time and again, dreaming of getting closer to these creatures that still keep their distance. We spoke to the film’s director, Juha Suonpää, on the occasion of its screening at CPH:DOX.
Cineuropa: The first image I saw of your film was of Hannu wearing that crazy lynx mask, but Lynx Man is more touching than expected.
Juha Suonpää: I met Hannu eight years ago. They were celebrating the anniversary of the Finnish Nature Protection Union, and he was showing some footage that he’d shot, talking about what he sees in the forest. The whole event was complete chaos, but there was a truthfulness to what he was saying. It wasn’t another National Geographic doc; it was all about emotional connection.
I went: “This is new, and we really need it.” What he has gained was this “new awareness”, and I asked him shyly if I could join him sometime. Luckily, he saw my previous film, Wolfman. When my cinematographer and I went to his remote cabin for the first time, by the time we woke up, he was already gone. Later, he told us about the things he had seen. I didn’t know if they were true, but I didn’t care. I wanted to jump into this world, too.
Men or women like him used to be mocked. Do you think that people, especially younger ones, understand them a little better now?
A year ago, we presented this project to secondary-school kids. One of them asked me if this film would speak to a young generation. There is something sincere about Hannu – he doesn’t care about what others are thinking. This honesty, and his approach to the planet, erases these age gaps.
I remember when I was an environmentalist in the 1980s; I remember how strongly I felt. We have the technology to change things, but we have to change our hearts first. We need to reimagine our relationship with nature. These animals are predators, but we need to learn from them, too, by seeing them hunt in a sustainable way, for example. In these villages, away from the cities, there was always some “crazy” guy. They were needed – also to introduce other perspectives and ways of thinking. It’s a political statement to be crazy.
In the end credits, you mention the lynx by their names. Jerzy Skolimowski did the same thing at Cannes, naming all of the donkeys who played in EO [+leggi anche:
scheda film]. Did you also start noticing how different they were?
The ironic thing is that I have never seen them in real life [laughs]. Some would say: “How can you make a nature film about animals you have never seen?” But there is a respect between me and the lynx. I have been “exploiting” them in the film, in a sense, but in a very democratic way. They decide when they come. It was important to give them this freedom instead of chasing them with a camera. One of them, Joseph, would often leave his mark, peeing right into the lens.
That’s a clear message.
They were playing with us. If you ever want to see a lynx, put Christmas decorations somewhere in the forest. And then wait. It can take eight years, but they will come.
Hannu wants to interact with them, too, but it’s not possible. In a way, it’s a film about loneliness because that distance will always be there.
I think you should feel that distance. Think about it: we had the pandemic, now war, and all of these black swans are coming. That means we really have to understand that we are not the ones protecting nature. Nature might be able to save us, but only if we are lucky and if we learn the language that Hannu already knows. He isn’t just looking at these fellow travellers – they are inside of his head.
You show them captured by night cameras, then Hannu dances around in his mask. There is something magical at play.
The distinction between us and them is becoming blurry. It came from Hannu: he is a shaman who has a message for us, and we should listen. The shamans were always a bit weird. They drank a lot or ate shrooms, but they were able to gain this new understanding and share it with others. Also, for Finns, the sauna is the place where we forget about culture and embrace nature instead.
I believe that you have to wait patiently to capture something unique. It took me 15 years to make Wolfman. As a filmmaker, I am a one-man band. I work as a professor at a university, so it gives me much-needed flexibility to wait and collect material. Now, I am thinking about Rat Man. I have been rescuing city rats, establishing a “camp” for them – one has moved into our chicken coop. From wolves to lynx to rats, it’s always about the unwanted ones. We have to reconnect with them, too. We can’t keep dividing non-humans into the ones we like and the ones we don’t. Everything is connected.
Watch the trailer for Lynx Man below:
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