CONCRETE NIGHT Betoniyö
Finland, Sweden, Denmark – 2013 – DCP – Colour and b&n – 96’
Direction: Pirjo Honkasalo
Screenplay: Pirjo Honkasalo, Pirkko Saisio adapted from the same novel by Pirkko Saisio
Cinematography: Peter Flinckenberg F.S.C.
Editing: Niels Pagh Andersen
Set design: Pentti Valkeasuo
Music: Karl Frid, Pär Frid
Costumes: Saija Siekkinen
Cast: Johannes Brotherus, Jari Virman, Juhan Ulfsak, Anneli Karppinen
Producers: Misha Jaari, Mark Lwoff
Production: Bufo Ltd
International Sales: Film Republic Henry Rashid
Concrete Night is a dream-like odyssey through beautiful Helsinki over the course of one night. The protagonist of the film is a 14-year-old boy named Simo who is still searching for a sense of self and the ability to protect himself from his surroundings. He lacks his own identity. Simo and his big brother Ilkka are the sons of a helpless and unpredictable single mother. Their chaotic home is located deep in the heart of a concrete jungle in Helsinki. Ilkka has one day of freedom left before starting his prison sentence. The mother persuades Simo to spend the last night with his brother. During the course of the day and night spent roaming around Helsinki, the brothers witness incidents they would rather not see. Vulnerable Simo is not equipped to justify what he sees or delude himself – seeing things accurately as they are. To him, the unfiltered world seems unbearable.
THE DIRECTOR: PIRJO HONKASALO
Pirjo Honkasalo is a highly established director, cinematographer and screenwriter, who has won countless awards for her work. She directed several feature films in the 1970’s and 80’s together with Pekka Lehto, e.g. Flame Top in Cannes competition 1980. In the 1990’s she continued alone and turned to feature documentaries, directing the prize winning The Trilogy of the Sacred and the Satanic (Mysterion, Tanjuska and the 7 Devils and Atman). She has also directed the stunningly beautiful The 3 Rooms of Melancholia, a story of how Russian and Chechen children were psychologically affected by the war. The film is still one of the most award winning feature documentaries ever. She was then invited to Japan to direct a film in Tokyo coming out with her film ITO – A Diary of an Urban Priest. She has had well over twenty retrospectives of her work worldwide, acted as a member of several international juries and is actively giving international master classes. She is also Finland’s first female cinematographer to shoot a feature film. She both acts as director and cinematographer in each of her documentaries. With her film Concrete Night she is back to feature fiction again.
Concrete Night is not a film about school killings, mass murderers or the Chechen brothers in Boston. It’s a film about a young mind that was shattered long before the all-encompassing misanthropy may have got a hold of it. This is a film about the metaphysics of coincidences in a world which we, blinded by our delusional omnipotence, think we have control over and thus the ability to destroy. The protagonist of the film, 14-year-old Simo, is the fragile and sensitive surface reflecting all the rumblings that take place around him.
Simo, lacking the ability to distort what he sees or change it to something more pleasing to him, sees the world accurately, just as it is. Life is unbearable when seen without a filter. Humans can’t live that way. Being an adult means building walls to protect one’s self.
This is what Author Marja-Leena Mikkola wrote about Pirkko Saisio’s novel in the 1980s:
”Edvard Munch’s famous painting The Scream arouses a sense of unease in the spectator. The face of the screaming creature has no expression, and yet it draws the spectator in. One is compelled to look intensely at the gaping mouth of the face, one cannot avoid it and one cannot escape from it. I experienced something similar to this when I read Pirkko Saisio’s ‘Concrete Night’. It has been ripped of everything superfluous – pity, tenderness, hatred, irony – all that remained was this scream, this howl.
In Concrete Night everything is dead for good. We’ve seen both mentally and physically neglected young people in suburban ghettos before. They have something that Simo doesn’t; a subculture of their own and some concept of themselves. In Concrete Night Simo is an outsider; a faceless young man.
Lifting Simo and his environment into the focus of literal description is an act of love of sorts. The total (and successful) settling inside Simo is an even greater one. The author accepts Simo.”
I, too, accept Simo.
1980 Flame Top
1983 250 Grams
1985 Da Capo
1993 Tanjuska and the 7 Devils
2004 The 3 Rooms of Melancholia
2009 ITO – A Diary of an Urban Priest
2013 Concrete Night
AWARDS AND FESTIVALS
2013 Toronto IFF -Master Series
2013 St. Petersburg IFF – Competition
2013 Warsaw IFF – Competition
2013 Thessaloniki IFF
2013 PÖFF – Tallinn Black Nights FF
2014 Rotterdam IFF
2014 Göteborg IFF – Dragon Award Competition