Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Steamy Movie

Last week, I saw a Finnish movie (with English subtitles, of course) called “Miesten Vuoro” (“Men’s Turn”). This is a pretty steamy movie featuring lots of nudity. It has no plot at all, but that really doesn't matter.

At this point, if you haven't seen or heard of the film, you might have completely the wrong idea. In fact, this award-winning feature-length documentary (called “Steam of Life” in English) is about Finnish men sitting together in saunas and, well, erm... TALKING.

Finnish men talking is quite a big deal apparently, if the following classic Finnish joke is anything to go by:

One day two friends, Jukka and Pekka, meet after a long time apart and they go to a sauna in the woods. They drink vodka in silence for a couple of hours. Then Jukka asks: “So Pekka, how have you been doing?” Pekka says nothing, and they continue drinking for another couple of hours. Eventually Jukka asks: “How's the family?”. At that point, Pekka stands up and shouts: “Did we come here to talk, or did we come here to drink?”
[I never claimed it was a hilarious joke]
Of course Finnish men do talk (I can vouch for that having been stuck in lengthy meetings in Helsinki), but in this movie they talk about their FEELINGS.

As an outsider, I am loathed to perpetuate an old cliché about Finnish men, but I am reliably informed that it is indeed true that Finnish men (especially those over a certain age) do not typically talk about feelings. I am told for example that it's not unusual for a Finnish man to tell his wife just once that he loves her. He will inform her should that change in the future, and in the meantime she had better not ask “do you love me?” as that is clearly a redundant question.

In that context, a documentary in which Finnish men talk emotionally about regretting their criminal past, losing custody of their children after divorce, or even finding love and happiness late in life, makes quite compelling viewing. Add to that some beautiful shots of the Finnish countryside and cities, as well as dose of humour (e.g. the unusual places saunas have been built), and you have a pleasant if melancholic film − well worth seeing.

Why not check out the trailer?


  1. I haven't heard of this and I flipping live in Finland - clearly I have been living under a rock.

    It is a cliche but cliche usually exist for a reason - in my experience they can be very chatty when discussing fishing/hunting/manly pursuits but not big on small talk and definitely not about feelings. I will have to see if I can find a copy with English subtitles - not necessarily an easy task inside of finland

    1. Go find the film. Here are the subtitles. Don't know about the quality.

  2. My sisters husband is in that film, he talks about the time he held his son for the first time.