The Strange Story of the Woodcutter is in theaters since January 4, and it is a very beautiful curiosity to discover. The proof in three points.
Occasional readers, who browse Ecran Large for its pop culture side, will perhaps be surprised to see the editorial staff supporting a UFO such as The Strange Story of the Woodcutter. The regulars, on the contrary, know how much we like to defend original and daring works, whether they come from the country of Uncle Sam or that of Santa Claus. In this case, here, we are closer to the second case, since the film Mikko Myllylahti is finnish (as well as Dutch, Danish and German).
It is therefore in Lapland that we follow Pepe, a lumberjack who loses his job overnight, like a good part of the inhabitants of the city. These will gradually give in to depression before downright twisting, until the supernatural. Pepe keeps a dreamy air in all circumstances.
We give you three reasons to discover this little surreal nugget.
Because it’s a funny story
Despite its languorous atmosphere, The Strange Story of the Woodcutter starts from a premise as simple as it is absurd. Its director and screenwriter Mikko Myllylahti, entrenched at home in the countryside to write his next film, met a lumberjack. He had to leave the village where he lived with his family, having lost his local job. Alone, far from his loved ones, he seemed to keep his spirits up. A resilience that made a strong impression on the filmmaker, himself a self-proclaimed optimist.
The film therefore narrates the misadventures of an eternal carefree man, going through the most trying trials, then the strangest, with a rather irresistible phlegm. And Myllylahti takes the opportunity to film a little existential ballad… but also infused with cold humor (we are in Lapland after all), even tongue-in-cheek. The melancholy that strikes the small village head-on becomes paradoxically schoolboy. As for the touches of surrealism that dot the story, they are sometimes delightfully absurd. Notice to amateurs.
Because you love surrealism as much as we do, deep down
Presented as a surrealist tale, the feature film seems unfriendly. Yet his references brush the seasoned cinephile in the direction of the hair. Besides De Sica (for Miracle in Milan), Kitano (for the wry humor), Tarkovski (for the spiritual aspect of Nostalghia) and Bergman (for the carriage scene in wild strawberries), the director quotes David Lynch, whom he says he greatly admires.
And it shows : The Strange Story of the Woodcutter resembles an unreal reverie, close to those of the director of Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive. Moreover, even far from a camera, one masters the verses as the other masters the brushes.
One could almost see in it a Nordic equivalent of blue-velvet, which revealed the underside of the beautiful American lawns to present the distorted phantasmagorical reflection. Convinced that his hero’s phlegm is characteristic of his region, Myllylahti strives to push this atmosphere beyond the plausible, employing in passing typically Lynchian motifs, such as the intrusion of bizarre characters who seem to dominate the narrative while fascinating the protagonists. It is the inhabitant of this shack, framing the microcosm of the village, or the mystifier who performs on stage in the second act.
Because it’s a beautiful moment of poetry
Although a screenwriter and director by training, Mikko Myllylahti is therefore an eminent poet, published several times. And despite the few words exchanged in his film, ironically, there is a very particular sense of rhythm and rupture. He who wanted to move away from classic narrative models to make the story branch off at random, he composes a kind of melody, which gradually takes precedence over the plotreducing it to a red thread embodied by Pepe (the hero camped by Jarkko Lahti).
Not that he relies on a particularly formalistic staging, on the contrary: his attachment to medium shots adds even more to the feeling of suspicious calm. But the music of Jonas Struckthe editing, the very minimalist acting of the actors, the sudden breaks in tone (briefly borrowing both from thriller and magical fantasy, with a bonus dose of the grotesque), as well as authentic moments of grace, carry away who wants to be carried away.
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