Rare Exports is the classic example of poor marketing. The trailers, or at least the American ones, made the film look to be a Christmas-horror film. There are horror elements within the film, but that’s not the main fixation of the script. After viewing the film myself, I understand why the material was hard to address a large audience with. Rare Exports is an absurd film, something similar to Trollhunter, where the fiction becomes the reality and is done in a serious manner. I walked away from Rare Exports with admiration at not only the crazy and well executed premise, but also the production value. I feel that Rare Exports may have missed its mark in the end, but it is still the Christmas movie to be watching years from now.
A wealthy man has hired a group of miners to excavate one of the Korvatunturi Mountains. The mountains lay on the border of Finland and Russia, and in the one they are hallowing out, Santa Claus is said to be buried within it. Now, the Santa (the American one) that we associate with Christmas is far different than the one that they are looking for, and I will leave it to you to find out how they differentiate. A boy by the name of Pietari lives with his father at the base of the mountain, and after seeing the miners digging, he understands that Santa will be released. Pietari begins to prepare, trying to warn his friends and staying up at night, awaiting the presence of Santa. Strange things begin happening in the town, Reindeer become slaughtered by the numbers and people begin losing their household appliances. Pietari’s father catches an old man in a wolf pit, and their problems begin to build from there.
Rare Exports is a father/son story, let me just get that out of the way now. Pietari feels inferior to his father and is unable to be the bold son that the father wants. The need of acceptance (and to some extent, curiosity) drives Pietari to move forward and try to save the town from doom. There are only male actors in this film (aside from a mother standing in the background) providing this sense of masculinity in the film’s themes. It’s Melville-ian, men dealing with men amidst danger and never letting their softer sides get a hold of them.
The movie reminded me of The Iron Giant, in which the young kid understands what’s going on, but because of his age and what he raves on about, the adults never believe in what he has to say. The message, or at least my interpretation, is that even when you become a “man,” you shouldn’t lose your romantic side or the kid inside you.
I was glued to the screen, and its short runtime saddened me that there wasn’t more crazy Finnish Santa stuff to see. I felt that the last 10 minutes were wild, but they seemed too “blockbuster” for a film of this size. There are some poorly done CG scenes as well in the end that took me far out of the fiction and broke the realism for me. The ending scene, though interesting, felt empty, as if they abandoned the father/son message for something else. I’ll let you guys decide, but I think I’m not completely wrong in saying that.
It’s funny how I found myself saying less about this movie than I should. My notes for the film were little and I feel that there wasn’t much wrong with Rare Exports. It’s a heartwarming tale about childhood, paternal relationships, and myths. All the standard great things can be attributed, such as acting, score, and direction. This was an excellent film that kept me engaged for the entire runtime and Rare Exports may be one of those films that I will watch every year around its appropriate holiday. I can’t stress enough how fun and absurd the film is and it’s something you just NEED to see. Yo, ho, ho.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale