Last night I watched Hevi Reissu or, in English, Heavy Trip, a quirky Finnish comedy of errors with tons of heart. As is often the case with the films from Scandinavia and Finland that make it onto my Netflix queue, Heavy Trip is sprinkled with sweet symbolic details, like a 1 hour 32 min. long confetti donut. Sweet to me, of course. And, as is also the case with films from the Scandinavian region that I’ve enjoyed in the past, Heavy Trip is jam packed with irony (what’s with all the sugary food metaphors?). Oh, I just looked up the etymology of ‘irony’. From ancient Greek, “dissimulation, feigned ignorance.” I love it!!!!!!!
Indeed the title itself is ironic, because it’s a comedy, right? And comedy is light. The “heavy” designation serves a punning purpose, also, for the story is about four young men and their heavy metal band. There are, of course, events and situations that are heavy in the vernacular sense; grave, or so complex they are impossible to describe. Like a heavy acid trip.
Big recommendation #1: The film never drops the jester ball; it juggles several balls beautifully. It manages to keep the general themes of personal transformation, humor, and loving connection circling expertly from beginning to end. That is not easy to do, I assume. Since I don’t encounter it often.
I hate when a film opens funny and then somewhere they throw the humor out once things get real, like they only made it funny in the opening to suck you in to drama-drama. They don’t know that funny and tragic can be beautifully synthesized- or it’s just beyond their skill. It feels like the script was written by two different people, and then sewed clumsily in the middle somewhere, like Frankenstein’s head patched to his body.
Heavy Trip is promoted as a road trip film, but it’s not, really. There’s a roadtrip, yeah, but it’s a whole lot more than that. Four metal musicians have been practicing in Lotvonen’s father’s reindeer slaughter house for, I think, 15 years. I’m not going to watch the film again, so don’t quote me on that. It’s already in its little mailing envelope so I don’t get tempted to do a real review.
Don’t worry, there’s not much gore in the film at all. It’s mostly in this scene, which is where the musicians are inspired, in a poetic way; more irony. Beauty from death, from facing the awful things we’ve been turning our backs to. Like the other references to death in the film, it’s meant to carve deeply the point that this is a film about personal transformation.
With personal transformation in mind, things are about to change for our small town band. The decision is made to perform in public, and the introverts of the group, Turo the vocalist and Pasi the bassist, are severely challenged to face fears of failure. They’ve been bucking small town castigation and derision for years, and retreating to the comfort of sheltered obscurity has become a habit. Pasi hides behind a Kiss-themed getup and a stage name; Turo, a heartbreakingly humble character, must stand on stage in front of his band, grab the microphone, and… well, you’ll see.
The band’s new performing persona requires writing original songs; they will no longer do covers. Of course when you perform covers in front of a paying audience, you are legally required to pay the songwriter(s) for the right. Which brings in the hundredth reason I love this film (OK, that’s an exaggerated number, meaning too many to count) is that it wisely addresses the creative journey. There’s the road from the essentially introverted, private experience of the songwriter, for example, to the challenge of public exposure; the hand that wields the pen now has a face. And the artist may not be comfortable enough in their own skin to risk other folks’s rotten tomatoes.
There’s the growth required to switch from imitation, to trusting one’s unique creative voice, the voice that Creation has never heard before. And more. It’s kinda cool for me that awesome writers often expound on writing… for let it not be lost on us, that the writers, though invisible, are the foundation of a dramatic production. That truth is made more obvious in theater, but obscured in the film industry.
There are diverse and clever scenes that treat this matter of trusting inner guidance vs. following the crowd. The film addresses some of the vicissitudes of fame, too, and that’s sweet, since I am currently working on a longer (and heavier) blog on the subject of fame. As I always say, it’s awesome to be me, in the archetypal zone, because the universe delivers up amazing educational experiences around whatever I am exploring.
When the guys get an opportunity to play their first gig in a big Norwegian metal fest, the community switches their attitude from derision to adulation. And Turo’s small town heart is traumatized. At the local bar, he stutters the news, and the band members are subsequently lauded. Their table soon sports about 20 glasses of beer; a solid small town blessing, tribute, and demonstration of support. For this big event will put the place on the map. Despite having put up with their teasing for years, Turo never developed resentment, never closed his heart against them. “Everybody’s expecting a lot of me”, he says. Awwwwwww.
In my experience, it’s actually harder to perform for people you know, depending, of course. I figure that’s because you care about their opinions (actually, I learned that truth from my youngest son, who is a performing artist). Strangers will walk away and be forgotten; friends and family will be, well, the opposite of that. I love that this truth is portrayed in the film. For it’s educational as hell for all of us.
Well this is just a recommendation, and I promised myself it would be short. So here it is; the film has artful wisdom, and fun, and, again, heart. There’s the self-centered cad (Jouni Tulkku, played by Ville Tiihonen), the sweet and wise flower-lady love interest (Miia, played by Minka Kuustonen), and a crazy maybe-Laplander drummer who gives advice on courage (Oula, played by Chike Ohanwe). Lots of biting social commentary and plain old-fashioned slapstick, in case you don’t go for the subtle humor. I give this one my flourless chocolate cake award; lots of yummy bang for your buck. Many thanks to directors Juuso Laatio and Jukka Vidgren. Both are credited as writers on IMDb, with the addition of Jari Olavi Rantala and Alexsi Puranen.