Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

(Finland, 2011)

Here’s one of the stranger little movies you’ll ever see. It is set in rural Finland and most of it is in the Finnish language. It seems a group of Americans has determined that what everyone thought was a mountain is actually the world’s biggest tomb/prison, dwarfing the pyramids. Prison, because what’s under it is not completely dead, just frozen. And what’s under it? Why … Santa Claus. But not jolly old Saint Nick. This is the old, Nordic, primitive Santa, who is a lot more interested in who’s been naughty than in giving presents to those who have been nice. And his punishments are grim, often fatal, as we see in ancient illustrations dug up by a local six-year-old named Pietari. I have no idea if any of these pictures are real, or if the legends we hear are real, but you just accept it as the premise and move on with the story. A reindeer herd is slaughtered, children vanish, hair dryers are stolen … hair dryers? Radiators, too. Turns out Santa’s elves (about 200 naked old men out in the snow) are trying to thaw Santa, who is bigger than a Macy’s parade float, out of his giant block of ice. It’s mostly handled pretty well, though I thought it got a little overblown as it neared the end. The build-up was better. But then it redeemed itself with a hilarious postscript.