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The Revenant in Finland

The Link enlisted me back in September of 2015 to write about film and movies. Perhaps you remember my inaugural post about one of my favourite independent romantic comedies Ruby Sparks. Since then my contributions here have dipped further into the cultural realm with the occasional album review and now, circumstance has cast me as a travel writer. This week, I’m going to throw it back to my roots and recap my first Finnish movie-going experience and all its expected (and unexpected) differences.

Here in Helsinki movies are priced a little differently than what we’re used to back home; the price is contingent on the time you see the movie. Matinees are cheaper than evenings and weekdays are cheaper than weekends. Lucky for us, we chose to catch a movie on Finnkino’s Superpäivä (Super Day) on which all regular movies are €7 and select concession snacks are two for one!

We bought our tickets online and reserved our seats – something I’ve only seen for the premium priced AVX showings at Cineplex movie theatres back home. According to a German friend, in Germany you actually pay more depending on which seat in the theatre you want to buy. Back row seats can sometimes come at a premium as high as €5! When I told her it was primarily first come first serve in North America she just shook her head. Clearly the Germans are fond of structure.

When we arrived at the Tennispalatsi Finnkino in Helsinki we were confused to find that the entire concession area was self-serve. Popcorn was sitting pre-bagged in heated shelving units similar to the drink coolers at a convenience store. There were bulk candy sections, bins full of chocolate bars and gummy candies, and even high-tech touchscreen self-serve drink fountains. You gather up everything you want and pay for it at the counter on your way into the theatre. “People would totally game this system back home” was the consensus.

The theatres at the Tennispalatsi Finnkino were different than back home in all the right ways (the featured picture above is one I snapped of the theatre on my way out at the end of the showing). For starters, it’s significantly wider with fewer rows than the theatres back home, which are usually much narrower and deeper with more rows. The seats were larger, wider, softer and more padded, and had more than double the legroom of a Cineplex theatre. They didn’t fold up like a normal theatre chair. Another interesting thing to note is the position of the screen. Instead of being significantly elevated it was positioned only a couple feet off the ground and a good 20-feet ahead of the first row – effectively eliminating all of the childhood neck-killing bad seats in the house. It made for a pretty good viewing angle.

What I made sure to ask my Finnish friends beforehand was whether or not I would understand anything if I went to a movie here. Turns out they don’t dub movies in Finland, instead they run subtitles in both Finnish AND Swedish at the bottom of the screen. What I didn’t think to ask, however, was what they would do to a foreign language in an English movie that would normally have English subtitles. Like, for example, all of the portions of The Revenant where they’re speaking in Pawnee. 😐 Answer? No English subtitles – just Finnish and Swedish. It was a good test of our Finnish skills. We would recognize the occasional word and piece together sentences by context – and apparently German and Swedish can be similar in some aspects, so we had a few rough translations from our German friend as well. Ultimately, we were left guessing for the majority of Native American dialogue.

As for The Revenant it was a beautifully shot film. Filmed primarily in the Pacific Northwest, the landscapes gave me a little bit of homesickness. Add to the experience the background facts of the film’s production – filmed on location using almost entirely natural light where the actors were actually put through many of the grueling onscreen traumas – and you get a very visceral and raw experience.

My only complaint might be the thin storyline. Without the added knowledge of the film’s impressive shoot or the natural beauty of the cinematography it makes for a pretty slim plotline not really fit for an extended length feature film. Point A to point B and not much in-between. If you can appreciate the film for what it is, a beautifully shot and acted showcase piece, then it’s worth your time.