Scandinavian Film Festival Review: They Have Escaped (He Ovat Paenneet)

Scandinavian Film Festival Review: They Have Escaped (He Ovat Paenneet)

A stuttering, shy army drop-out is sent to work at a home for troubled children where he meets and runs away with a troubled seventeen year old girl.

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Jukka-Pekka Valkeapää’s They Have Escaped is a … hmm, how do I explain it? … well, it’s a strange sort of movie, but very interesting. It’s stylish, creative and even shocking, but teeters on the brink of being too disjointed and meaningless.

Joni (Teppo Manner) is a stuttering, shy army drop-out sent to work at a home for troubled children. There he meets spunky Raisa (Roosa Söderholm) a troubled seventeen year old with a truly wild streak. After Raisa raises hell at the home and befriends Joni (against the instruction of his manager), the two escape the home and begin a meandering yet high speed adventure to find a treasure that Raisa claims to know.

Fairly simple plot, yes? In fact, it’s so simple one might go in thinking that this will be nothing but another teen road trip drama, albeit with a bit of a punky aesthetic. Honestly, you wouldn’t be wrong for the most part, as the first half is pretty much another teen road trip drama. Halfway through though, the pair find themselves in an abandoned house with a box full of booze and drugs and suddenly the film takes a sharp 60s turn (complete with pop-art colour shifts, absurd nude scenes and even a bit of psych rock). It follows that road for a while, and then turns sharply again, this time into Wolf Creek territory…

The rapid and unexplainable changes of They Have Escaped are interesting, I’ll give them that, but they do make the film feel very disjointed and messy. There’s almost no reason for anything to happen in this movie, and it’s hard to feel anything for the characters trying to deal with the situations.

Raisa is a very typical “bad girl” character, with exaggerated make-up, a permanent sneer and striking hair. She’s made a little more interesting by her back story of a lost treasure and ruined childhood, but ultimately isn’t that likeable of a character. Neither is Joni, who is practically mute and seemingly unable to make his own decisions. The two young actors, Söderholm and Manner, aren’t too bad though, even if they do overact a bit in certain scenes and under-act in others.

What makes They Have Escaped so interesting is its HEAVY, and I repeat in capitals again, HEAVY use of symbolism and dream sequences. Expect to see a lot of made-up warriors, archers, deer-headed boys, giant pills, little Omen-style kids in the snow and lots of red. These dream scenes are some of the best edited in the film and are great to watch. It’s easy to see though that the director has perhaps relied too heavily on this tactic to make the movie appealing. Sure, they’re cool scenes, but your whole movie can’t ride on them.

Definitely worthy of note though is the soundtrack. I love the atmospheric, ambient tunes that play though out and the clever way that sounds – such as knocking on a window and humming – are turned into parts of the soundtrack through distortion and editing.

They Have Escaped is a stylish and rather hip film, with a brutal shift in direction that viewers will definitely remember.

Reviewed by James Rudd
Twitter: @james_wrr

Rating out of 10:  6

They Have Escaped will screen on 24 July 2015 at part of the Scandinavian Film Festival, running 22-29 July 2015 exclusively at the Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas.

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