Critic's choice

Read the full text by John Anderson


This year’s DocPoint included the Critic’s Choice, where American film critic John Anderson chose three of  his favourites from the New Finnish Documentary Films series.

HOME. Somewhere.

Director: Lotta  Petronella

Formally precise, emotionally profound, Home. Somewhere. gives a poetic voice to people who have never traditionally had one, men who maintain a combative relationship with both God and the Earth – and, somehow predictably, live and work at the edge of the sea. They have a tenuous grasp on the meaning of life, but only because they’ve had the time and inclination to regard it, from a vantage point at the end of the world.

“Anything can be dramatic,” says one, with a dismissive shrug at his own significance. “But one human life is not.” Director Lotta Petronella would beg to differ.

If there’s a storyline at the heart of Home, it is directly rooted in the cosmological; the filmmaker has made a true and honest work about madly elusive matters, including self-worth, self-reliance and the existential self. The great gray expanses she shows, and the oceanic void that seems to exist just off camera, suggest melancholy, a quality mentioned several times in the course of the film. (One of the subjects defines it as the feeling one has in the process of losing something – as opposed to sadness, which is the feeling of loss). But what’s being felt by these men also seems like nostalgia – a yearning for something one might never have known at all, in this case a place in the world that is solid and settled and, as the title implies, home.

How the subjects express themselves, while roaming the forests, killing a seal, plucking a bird or cleaning a fish, is made eloquent by Petronella’s style, which involves regularly shooting her subjects from behind, the figure within the frame always moving forward, face and destination unseen and sometimes unknown. She places her men in an always suggestive proximity to their environment: Intended or not, one snow-suited subject, wrestling himself out of a hole in the ice, gives a credible impersonation of childbirth – a newborn sprung from a world in which temperatures are rising, ice is disappearing, terra cognita is being deformed/destroyed and everything familiar is melting away.

Home. Somewhere. may be more a movie about the environment of the mind than the world, but its regard of the ecology cannot be overlooked.

The sea and sky are Petronella’s indispensable confederates, but so are Lau Nau and Micke Nyström. Nau’s music suggest the mournful cry of the drifting human soul; Nyström’s sound design is an intoxicant. Together they elevate the entire experience of Home. Somewhere. and provide invaluable assistance to Petronella in achieving her goal: Elevating the anonymous and unsung, and ennobling their search for meaning. Documentaries seldom attempt anything so simple, or hope to achieve so much.