Pain comes in many forms but does only one thing. It imprisons us. This underlying theme is the greatest asset of this film, making it one of the greatest horror-thriller films of 2017.
4 out of 4 stars
The extraordinary Mr. Veijo Haukka
The moment you meet Veijo, you are bound to find him interesting. His deeply intense eyes, hidden behind a dark pair of glasses, tend to look deep into one’s soul. And that’s not just limited to fellow human beings. From the beginning, it is clear that Veijo can understand what animals are saying. While the modern audience, fed by countless superhero tales, will take it as a superpower, it’s actually something more. Veijo has the power to empathize with other animals. However, he derived this ability at a considerably high cost.
Though his demeanor doesn’t indicate it, Veijo does have a lot of emotions inside him. But this has to do more with his childhood. Veijo’s mother died a sudden death and he spent a considerably long time with his father. Now, filmmaker Teemu Nikki does very well by not emphasizing on Veijo’s childhood experiences with his father. Instead, we are given the task of figuring out what kind of memories drive the adult Veijo. He believes in karma. His father cannot get away with what he did. Veijo devices a plan subjecting his father to misery, and successfully applies it. Therefore, he is sure that karma does exist.
A really different love story
Any lesser film would have simply used Veijo’s obsession with karma. This material is enough for a thrilling story. It gives a character whose deeds throw insights into his thoughts. It also tells us something about humanity. Any filmmaker will be happy with this. But they will only want to thrill. Teemu Nikki is looking for something more. He is searching for more insight into the means of survival. That Veijo can understand animal language isn’t a superpower. It is two equals empathizing with each other. It might be the case that Veijo’s father used to keep him tied as a child. Or maybe forced him to crawl on fours.
Therefore, Veijo doesn’t like it when people treat animals badly. Which is often. Thus he has developed an inherent disliking for human beings. His friends in the neighborhood know this well. In such a scenario, he comes across a woman. She is a nurse, and she deeply cares for human beings. All love stories pitch their uniqueness to the audience. Very few do not disappoint. This film could have easily promoted itself as a unique love story and get away with flying colors. In one scene, after having sex, Veijo starts talking about animals and takes his pet dog for a walk. The nurse, Lotta, talks about the patients in the hospital where she works. Thus their priorities are different. But then, they say that opposites attract.
What is then interesting about this couple is the way they relate to one another. Lotta likes people. Veijo is not really fond of them. But Lotta is attracted to Veijo because of the way he deals with pain. He understands that animals are suffering. Death is a beautiful release from this pain. Veijo is a euthanizer. However, the fact that he does this should be his last trait of identification. Because Veijo treats euthanizing as a solution. He plays a beautifully melancholic song while he releases the scarred animal souls from their bodies. The entire process is as poetic as the final shot of the film.
Lotta feels for the patients to an extreme extent. While having sex, she asks Veijo to choke her. It might be because she wants to feel pain, the desperation for life. However, Veijo has enough hidden rage in him, which releases when he chokes her. Lotta almost dies for a minute. The scene is weirdly funny. But it also unites the couple and separates them. Veijo can go to an extreme extent if a human being harms an animal. This ideology, and his obsession for karma, gets tested when he comes across Petri.
Petri wants to kill his dog because he cannot pay any more for maintaining the pet. But he is too afraid to kill him. So he takes the dog to Veijo. But Veijo decides not to kill him. instead, he makes the dog his pet. It can be because the dog told him that he doesn’t want to die. In fact, the dog had a happy life. Petri’s wife and children loved the dog. Therefore, there is no pain to release the dog from.
“You’re going to have to deal with us”
But one day, Petri comes across Veijo with his dog. Now, this would not have mattered to Petri, if he wouldn’t have said what he said. Essentially, Petri is a coward. Therefore, he has to prove that he is not a coward. That way, he will feel less sad about himself. Also, his ‘brothers’, called Soldiers of Finland as a group (pun intended?), pick on him. Petri will gain a higher reputation if he says that he killed the dog himself. But Veijo coming with his dog proves he lied. Therefore, the brothers pick on him more. So Petri is enraged and wants revenge.
This conflict sounds trivial. But it goes on to reveal that people are essentially cowards. The film begins with the shot of a caged animal. It goes on to show that all of us are prisoners of our own experiences. Pain comes in many forms. But it only does one thing. It imprisons us. This underlying theme is the greatest asset of the film. It makes the work one of the greatest horror-thriller films of 2017.
Credits (from IMDb):