To Save Christmas, We Had to Blow Up Santa Claus

12/01/2010 4:00 AM |

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
Directed by Jalmari Helander

Growing up means putting away childish things—or, killing them, as in Rare Exports. In this Finnish coming-of-age Christmas escapade, a group of guys must save The Holidays by blowing up Santa Claus. Wait, really? Well, they have good reason: this is not your Coca-Cola Kringle, but rather a Father Christmas who boils naughty children in his cauldron and feeds on Blitzen’s carcass. Wait, seriously? Yeah, it’s more Silent Night, Deadly Night than Miracle on 34th Street—more Black Christmas than Crosby-crooned White—though writer-director Helander borrows the mold cast by the child-friendly and -focused adventures Dante and Donner made under Spielberg’s banner in the 80s.

Onni Tommila stars as a boy living with his reindeer-farming, emotionally unexpressive father (Jorma Tommila); the film’s Santa becomes a grotesque magnification of that stern paternal authority figure, freed from his Lapland ice prison—a pharaonic tomb for Scandinavians—by an international mining operation, wreaking havoc on the local population and their livelihoods. So, Rare Exports is about fathers and sons (not a single woman appears on screen); about the intrepid pluck that ordinary men muster against exploitative corporations; an allegory about a demonic, monomaniacal moral-enforcer; and a critique of American invaders. (One of the naked, zombie-like elves—who resemble an army of Robert Duvalls in Get Low—holds a U.S. passport.) Most of all, though, it’s just a Noel novelty, subverting the season’s standard sentimental-signifiers for silly shocks, an alternative to holiday humbuggery like Elf: The Stage Musical. Exports‘ sourness tastes like open-fire-roasted chestnuts by comparison.

Opens December 3