EUFF’s Concrete Night is well-made but uncomfortable to watch

A review by Brenda Daniels 

The film poster with its original film title. This 2013 film shows in cinemas in South Africa as part of the European Film Festival. Photo: creative commons

The film poster with its original film title. This 2013 film shows in cinemas in South Africa as part of the European Film Festival. Photo: creative commons

The 2015 European Film Festival celebrates women through the theme A Woman’s World. In Concrete Night, it is director Pirjo Honkasalo who is celebrated.

The film centres around a teenaged-boy named Simo who lives with his single mother and an older brother in a miserable-looking apartment block in Helsinki, Finland. Inner city shots, night filming, graffiti and grime, and relentless rain add to the depressing atmosphere of the story. It certainly belies the film’s given description which contains the words “beautiful Helsinki”. In fact, I caught myself thinking I wouldn’t live in Helsinki if I was paid to. But I think this is what Honkasalo intended: to create a setting that echoed the characters’ hopelessness.

The story takes place over the course of only one night and serves as a journey of sorts – Simo’s passage into adulthood. According to his brother, adulthood or future is one in which humans don’t matter, and one that is better lived without hope. Taken too literally by immature Simo, this advice has devastating consequences for the young man, and proves excruciatingly untrue for his brother.

Concrete Night is not an enjoyable film. It is strange and confrontational, and I found myself glancing at my watch hoping it would end. But the ending did bring the difficult elements of the story into sharp focus. I was left feeling depressed but with an appreciation that Concrete Night is a well-made film.

Concrete Night screens at Cinema Nouveau (in Durban) on Friday 15th May at 5.30pm.

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