In Finland, where it numbers close to one for every two inhabitants, the sauna is a way of life as well as part of the scenery. But Steam of Life (proposed by the Helsinki DocPoint festival and screened within the Doc Alliance framework) delves beyond the usual clichés into the cathartic dimension of these some- times improvised steam rooms (a special distinction goes to the phone booth and the combine harvester !). A local saying puts it this way: the steam soothes the bitterness while the whisking appeases resentment (a reference to the birch whisks appreci- ated by Scandinavians). Joonas Berghäll and Mika Hotakainen draw us into an intimacy where tongues loosen to match the dilation of the pores. In static shots, men of all ages, mother-naked, give voice to their pain, their loneliness, their hopes. Alternating with these scenes of soul-searching—at times the sauna benches call to mind a psycho- analyst’s couch – the camera allows us moments of soothing contemplation with images of a comforting, motherly Nature. But the steam—and tears—also give way to incongruous moments that jar the film’s melancholic rhythm, letting it subtly hover between elegy and bittersweet comedy. The choir formed by the film’s protagonists in the final scene would not seem out of place in a Kaurismäki...
Steam of Life by Joonas Berghåll et Mika Hotakainen
Finland, Sweden | 2010 | 84’
Official Selection Visions du Réel 2010
Prix du Jury interreligieux
On Saturday November 15, 2014 at 7pm
and Thursday November 20, 2014 at 8:30pm
at the Cinématte in Bern