Opening 11 May 2023
In a tiny village in northern Finland, life is blissful for Pepe (Jarkko Lahti). He is happiest when he is ice fishing, cutting down trees, and having a get-together with his family and friends. The surrounding wilderness full of snow looks magical through his eyes but slowly things begin to change and his private utopia begins to unravel. The Woodcutter Story opened at Cannes Film Festival in 2022 and has made the festival rounds and now will open in the main cinema. This is a quirky tale full of strange mystical events that show even the most isolated places are changing. Pepe’s perfect world starts falling apart when the wood mill closes and the decision is made to start mining in the area. The film first appears to be an environmental film but as we watch the eternally optimistic Pepe’s world go up in flames, we feel the sense that a greater power is at work here.
Mikko Myllylahti clearly has taken The Book of Job or perhaps Dante’s Inferno and created a dark comic-surreal folktale where the main character fights to remain optimistic despite all the strange events occurring around him with every breath. He witnesses talking fish and is invited to strange spiritual meetings which lead to nowhere but still he continues his journey never looking back. The film reminds me of the filmmaker David Lynch’s series Twin Peaks or Stanley Kubrick’s horror film The Shining (1980). There seems to be some symbolic meaning here, but it is difficult to interpret where this story is taking us. My prediction is that this film has the right stuff to become a cult classic with its haunting blowing trees covered in snow set against a small town lost in time with vintage cars and rooms leading to nowhere. Myllylahti has created unforgettable imagery combined with humor; it is a tale not to be missed. (Shelly Schoeneshoefer)