The Grump (Mielensäpahoittaja)

Another in the series of films released on Vimeo by Cinefile, the 2014 Finnish film, The Grump, from director Dome Karukoski is available to rent now.

Based on the character from the book of the same name created by writer Tuomas Kyrö, who co-scripts the film with Karukoski, The Grump tells of this antediluvian old Finn who is not so much stuck in the past as cemented deep in to it. One of the voiced over opening lines sums him up pretty well – “It sure ruins my day when times change”.

Forever wearing his hunting hat made of bear skin, like an elderly Holden Caulfield, here we have a man who wants to die with his boots on and his axe in his hands; a man who fears the infantilisation of old age and the life-long perils of communication yet continues to feed his belovèd ‘missus’ in the assisted living home with that persistent unspoken love.    

When he falls and hurts his leg on his remote farm, he is taken to Helsinki to his son and daughter in law’s house for unsought for care. Here, his preference for the quiet predictable pace of his farm is sharply at odds with the hurry of contemporary city life with shades of Tati’s Mon Oncle as he navigates their modern kitchen. Yet he  proves an unlikely ally to his daughter in law who’s on the verge of being tipped over the line with frustration (described as being “Margaret Thatcher angry”) in dealing with him when she is negotiating with obstinate Russian clients. 

Antti Litja brings conviction to the role of the man who yearns for the days when there were “skis of wood and men of iron”; when his sense of maleness was compounded by his marriage that consisted of 53 years of “a clear division of labour”. These predominantly silent separate spheres worked for him at least but his son shows him a different kind of masculinity. The views of the two generations may be in diametric opposition, with his son’s theory of living pitted against his practical knowledge yet his briefly donning a pink baseball cap to share a family activity shows the possibility of new beginnings for  this grumpy old man.

The metaphor for modern life “the times of the accordion are over” used as this Finnish Victor Meldrew heads home to the life he knows best beautifully captures a sad acceptance of change.

Shot in soft focus, the quiet autumnal colours in the scenes that bookend this funny and touching tale add a poignancy that’s augmented by Hilmar Hilmarsson’s melancholy soundtrack. The Grump contains the Finnish knack of bringing gently dark humour to highly insightful human stories with a philosophical tone. A thoroughly enjoyable film.

Irene Brown

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