Padre (failed) padrone in Finnish Bad Family
by Annika Pham
Bad Family [+see also:
film profile], the third feature film by Finnish filmmaker Aleksi Salmenperä screened yesterday in the Panorama Special sidebar of Berlinale, is a well-rounded study of parental and teenage conflict with which all viewers in those circumstances can easily identify.
Just as in the filmmaker’s two previous films, Bad Family is a tragicomedy about a taboo subject (in this case, incest) and the main male character’s difficulty in dealing with his role as a partner and a father in a family. In Bad Family, Mikael (Ville Virtalen) is a Supreme Court judge bringing up his 16-year-old son Daniel on his own while sharing his life with his new girlfriend and her little boy. They all seem to be living happily under the same roof, with a demented grandfather.
When Mikael’s estranged wife dies, the daughter he hasn’t seen in 16 years moves in with them. The presence of an older sister he has never known awakens new feelings in the teenage boy. Confronted with a situation he cannot understand and control, the father becomes enraged and starts to use unscrupulous methods to prevent their nascent incestuous relationship. Mikael’s pitiful crusade against them rapidly grows out of control and he ends up losing everything.
The story is tightly built around the central theme of the over-protective father who becomes a pathetic figure trapped in his own one-dimensional world, where lack of communication brings chaos. A father of three children, Salmenperä said at the film’s press conference that his own family is the source of inspiration for his films. “As a father, I feel I make mistakes although I always wish well,” he admitted.
Finnish star Virtalen and emerging talents Pihla Viitala (Shooting Star 2010) and Lauri Tilkanen (Last Cowboy Standing [+see also:
film profile]) give restrained and convincing performances and the chemistry between the two adolescents is transmitted on screen. The rich, fluid camerawork relies regularly on close-ups to capture the characters’ inner reactions.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.