Recommended Viewing Situation:

Not Smoking. Not Drinking. Not Cursing. Rifle in hand, praying to make it through the night.

Running Time:
Rare Exports Inc. – 8 minutes.
Rare Exports: The Official Safety Instructions – 10 minutes.

Format: 35mm film.

Director: Jalmari Helander.

Writers: Jalmari and Juuso Helander.

Cinematographer: Jean-Noël Mustonen.

Awards: N/A.

 

Are you ready for the grittiest Christmas tale of all time? Quite a claim to make in light of Bruce Willis’ holiday classic Die Hard (1988) I know, but here is a collection of films that really are the best festive re-imaginings this writer has ever seen. Rare Exports Inc. (2003) and Rare Exports: The Official Safety Instructions (2005), written by Jalmari and Juuso Helander, are an eye-opening mockumentary series that explores the bloodthirsty origins of the wild beast Santa Claus.

With the feature length Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale taking the stage in 2010, director Jalmari Helander shot to critical acclaim in less than a decade. After producing a set of award winning advertisements, Helander created two exquisite short films that would change the face of his career. The Rare Exports shorts are an intimate infusion of characteristically seething Scandinavian humour and traditionally serious European style of documentary film making. The results are gut-wrenching hilarity, with the moments that are so intensely tongue in cheek you would be forgiven for boring a hole through your face. That is not to say that there aren’t some delightfully slapstick moments in the collection; you will never hear the profanity ‘perkele’ again without laughing and taking cover. Aside from the subtle negotiations of satire and farce, a crowning achievement of the collection is their cinematography. The expansive visual palette of Jean-Noël Mustonen is absolutely breath-taking and adds a necessary nuisance to offset the content of the film. Not to be forgotten, the fantastic cast of the series, consisting of Jorma Tommila, Tommi Korpela and Tazu Ovaska (the hunters), Jonathan Hutchings (our unwavering narrator) and Otso Tarkela (as Santa himself), each playing their roles with inspiring earnest.

The Rare Exports feature film series is a real gem; it is daring, macabre and well worth sticking with despite taking a jump towards the absurd near the end. However, it really functions as an origin story for the short films. And really, the true joy and excitement of this collection lies in the shorts. They are thoroughly re-watchable and are already an instant classic. If you want to check out Helander’s other films, take a look at his 2014 feature Big Game with Samuel L Jackson. Oh, and remember, Santa can always tell who’s been naughty and who’s been nice…with the appropriate training of course.

-Matt Iredale