Kohtalon Kirja (English title: The Book of Fate)
Released: December 5, 2003 (only on VHS and DVD)
Directors: Tommi Lepola and Tero Molin
Starring: Juha-Pekka Mikkola, Johanna Kokko, Vesa Vierikko, Mikko Nousiainen, Åke Lindman and more...
Movie website: http://www.kohtalonkirja.com/
As a movie: ***
As a parody of Hollywood movies: *****
Worth wasting time on: YES
Does the DVD rule?: Yes.
Words "snowball" and "Hell" come in the mind
Let me tell you first how I felt when I heard of this movie, to explain the prejudice. The Finnish cinema is just not doing that well. Making good movies is hard, and it seems that we don't have the required know-how here any more. Yet, it's always good that people are trying...
So, most Finnish movies are bound to be pretty bad. And I have to say that when I heard of this movie first and read the DVD back cover, I wasn't too hopeful.
"THE BOOK OF FATE is the first Finnish western, horror, war, action and sci-fi movie - all in one."
You know, usually movies that mix a lot of genres just aren't good. Then there's the fact that the people making this stuff are rookies, and the fact that it's a Finnish movie... nope, doesn't look good thus far.
So I watched this thing with my sister. And we agreed that the bad reputation the movie had got was largely unfounded.
The basic premise of the movie is actually not that bad. The Book of Fate is a mysterious thingy. Whoever writes on it with a mysterious Pen is able to change the history. The story is mostly about one man and his incarnations in various times and places.
The movie starts in Transilvania in 1700s. People need to find an old cross that might help them to deal with this small case of vampires they're having. A priest and two guys discover the cross, and the Book. And then comes some almost decent vampire makeup and 3D effects, and just as one of them bloodsucking bloodsuckers is about to win>... we end up in Arizona in 1800s. Now, the case revolves around a silent gunman who shoots some bad guys. Then, let's see what happens in Kollaa in Winter War - the damn book pops up there as well. And onward to present day Tampere where we get to do some action movie stuff and some Matrix-like wire-fu, and then to outer space in future where the whole mess gets wrapped up.
Okay, does it work too?
Macguffinatorrrrr says: The Book does work. Each of the episodes are fairly coherent in themselves, and the end does wrap all of them up.
Individual episodes all have their highlights - and some weak spots. All of the scenes willingly play with some of the cliches of other movies - the makers didn't want to avoid them, just use them. I happen to like cliches, especially if you manage to twist them until they become hilarious and convincing at the same time, as happens in the western movie episode. The scenes also work outside of cliche twisting: There are some genuinely beautiful or touching scenes, like the end of the cellar wire-fu stuff, and the whole end sequence of the movie.
There were some bad things in each episode. Acting isn't always the best, but then again, we're talking of amateurs doing their first feature film (Juha-Pekka Mikkola as the male lead character throughout the movie is doing his stuff more or less decently - usually more). Most had to do with some makeup or costuming issues (okay, the vampires look like spackle-noses, who cares?) or the fact that the CG effects were a little bit unconvincing in the sci-fi episode - they looked far too good.
Oh, and Tony Halme looks good on screen, as long as he shuts up. (If they're going with the parliamentary muscle-colossi, they should have picked Arnie. At least Arnie makes sense at times.) Speaking of "big names" they got for the movie, I thought they did their job very well, which was only to be noted. (Vesa Vierikko makes an excellent Bond mad genius villain, and Åke Lindman as a sci-fi general reminds me that he has just the right voice and appearance for this sort of roles...)
But overall, I thought the effect stuff in the movie was well up to international levels - They might have just given it some more time to finish it up and it might be Right There. The "invisible" CGI elements were well done and looked very convincing.
I thought the movie was a bit perplexing in that it isn't a good movie in itself - there are far better movies in each of the genres covered - but as a whole it isn't that bad, considering the production time and cost and the experience of the cast and crew. In conclusion, I'd say that I really liked this movie and I think it's definitely cult classic material.
During the holidays I got this DVD from a movie shop in Tampere and they gave me a poster, too. Woohoo.
This is actually a two-disc set. There's two commentary tracks (directors and actors) on the first - can't comment on these, not tried them yet - and short documentaries. The second disc has making-of, deleted/alternate scenes, images and storyboards, trailers and TV spots, and stuff like that.
The more interesting bits are found from the "useless extras" menu: A karaoke video (parody of a traditional Finnish song, telling about the troubles of filmmaking) and "The Bouncing Priests" commercial. There's also a making-of documentary spoof where the folks tell most outrageous lies they can think of. Great fun.
And, oh, looks like the discs don't use CSS. (The only reason I committed a Sacrilege by not using The Matrix as the test of my new DVD drive in Linux...)