Friday, May 25, 2007


Yesterday, after losing a cricket match in record time, the choice was to go back to work or to go watch Matti The Movie with the Finns. The latter, naturally, won.

It was the number one film in Finland in 2006, and depicts the fictional story of the actual ski jumper. Matti is a phenomenon: an Olympic hero, the best ski jumper of all times and later an alcoholic, "singer", stripper, and convict. I've lost count of how many times he has been married, and I've even lost count how many times he's been married to his latest/current wife, as they've been on and off for years. So, a tragic hero to put it mildly.

The film script is fiction, the filmmakers say (probably to justify some of the storylines and to keep lawyers at bay), but references to real events and real people are clear enough. Even though the film misses two or three wives and just has one "composite" bad guy as the manager/friend/leech played by Peter Franzen (good acting in spite of the one-dimensionality of the character and the stereotypical gestures (being drunk most of the time)) instead of the string of different "entrepreneurs" that in real life took turns in being Matti's "best friends" and managers, the blame finds its target easily enough.

The film is entertainment of sorts, it takes great pleasure in showing people do stupid things when drunk, it is annoyingly patronising in underlining and emphasising the "pivotal moments" where things start to go wrong, and it usually points a finger to the manager, the Ski Federation or some such external and greedy party. The main key to turn Matti to the dark side seems to be challenging his courage. This works in pretty much the same way as in the Back to the Future -films, (calling the main character "chicken" makes him do irrational things just to prove the sayer wrong) and serves as a simple if clumsy way of motivating seemingly stupid actions without having to dig any deeper.

Although the film takes Matti's side, it ironically is the continuation of the chain of exploitation depicted in the film. Matti generates a huge interest, and if you can package him you can make big money. Most people want to see this film because it is about Matti, me included. Those who don't know of him, don't like the film. Indeed, in our showing, most non-Finns decided to leave the room before the film ended. It's the phenomenon of Matti, the irrationality of him and his actions, the enduring status that he has in the Finnish yellow press that draw you to this film. You want to see their take, if it answers any of the questions there are. Unfortunately, just like all the other great ideas to monetize Matti, this one was just doing the minimum, not going any deeper than exhibiting the "freak", and cashing in on his behalf.

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