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Wednesday, September 7, 2022

‘Sisu’: ‘Rare Exports’ Filmmaker Jalmari Helander on Hyper-Violent and Bloody Crowd Pleaser [TIFF Preview]

Writer/Director Jalmari Helander’s Rare Exports quickly became requisite holiday viewing among horror fans for its delightfully twisted take on Santa Claus and his not-so-merry elves. Helander is upping the ante on genre-bending mayhem for his latest, Sisu, set to make its World Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2022.

The filmmaker reteams with Rare Exports actor Jorma Tommila for one epic and hyper-violent period adventure through the wilderness of Lapland in Northern Finland. Sisu sees Tommila playing Aatami, a solitary gold prospector that embarks on a trek to the nearest town to cash in his find of the century. Aatami crosses paths with a troop of Nazi soldiers led by the vile and villainous SS Obersturmführer (Aksel Hennie). The Nazis decide to take the gold for themselves, but they don’t realize they’ve picked a fight with the wrong man. Aatami is a one-man army of legendary proportions, and he’s willing to fight to the death.

In other words: expect one uproariously great time.

Ahead of the film’s festival premiere, Bloody Disgusting spoke with Helander about the gonzo violence, dark sense of humor, and trying to outdo himself on action and ambition.

Helander said of Sisu’s inspiration, “I always wanted to do a film in Finnish Lapland about the gold rush we had here in Finland. When I realized a couple of years ago that there actually were Nazis in Lapland at the end of World War II, I connected those things; now I could have a fight with the Nazis. That’s basically the idea.”

Don’t expect a wholly serious tone here. Keeping with previous films, Helander aims to deliver the fun, this time for an older audience.

I just wanted to be entertaining. I’ve been missing that because all my previous films have been PG-13. I guess Rare Exports was something else in the US, but in Finland, it’s PG-13. Because all my early films, when I just used a VHS camera, were about a lot of violence like they usually are. It’s fun to try to reinvent things like that. It was fun to try to invent ways to kill Nazis and survive all the Nazi attacks with some inventive ways which you haven’t seen before. That’s what I liked when I was writing, to have cool ideas of what to do if you are in a situation where Aatami is in the film.”

Image credit: Courtesy of TIFF

One noticeable trait of Sisu‘s protagonist, aside from his ability to dole out and receive punishment, is that he’s a man of few words. 

When asked if the minimal dialogue, at least on Aatami’s part, made it easier or trickier to convey emotion and intensity, Helander said, “Probably it’s harder. I was terrified that I didn’t want Aatami to talk in the film. When I started writing, I was quite terrified of how the fuck I was going to fill the pages of the script because I didn’t have any dialogue. Because dialogue is usually where you get enough pages. But in the end, I loved the process of writing without the main character talking because it’s a movie, after all, not an audiobook. So, I have to show things rather than explain them in dialogue, which is so stupid. So many times, you see that. Like in Keep Breathing. This woman is stranded somewhere in Alaska, and she’s constantly talking. Things like, ‘I need water. I need to get away from here,’ or stuff like that. You don’t need to say that. Everyone knows that. So, I think it was really fun [to write without dialogue].

“It was quite a lot of storyboarding. Also, when writing, I made these little models from paper for all the cars and stuff. Because it’s quite hard to imagine where all the cars are, in which order they drive and where Aatami will be at this time. I did quite a lot when I was writing. When I finished the script, it was quite clear what we would have to do. Then there’s quite a lot of VFX and SFX. You need to storyboard that to be able to pull it off in the shooting.”

Helander emphasizes practical SFX as much as possible. That means many crowd-pleasing, gory action set pieces. So gory that Helander lost count of the quantity of fake blood employed during the shoot.

“That’s a good question. I should ask that of the makeup department, but it was a lot. It was quite a lot of blood. It would be where they had big, big cans of it. Many liters. But it’s impossible to say how much; I can’t answer that,” he tells us.

For the filmmaker, making an R-rated, hyper-violent action movie let him cut loose. He explained with a grin, “It was like being a kid again with the fake blood bottles and all that shit.”

Details on Sisu‘s screenings at TIFF can be found here.

The post ‘Sisu’: ‘Rare Exports’ Filmmaker Jalmari Helander on Hyper-Violent and Bloody Crowd Pleaser [TIFF Preview] appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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