Western Christmas custom facilities on the jolly determine of Santa Claus and his workshop manned by adorably cheery elves on the North Pole. Fantasy is dominated by figures like J.R.R. Tolkien’s majestic elves within the Lord of the Rings trilogy, impressed by Outdated English poetry. However there are different, darker incarnations of elvish creatures in folklore from all over the world.
If you happen to’re within the temper for one thing a bit completely different to your vacation leisure this weekend, I extremely suggest a Christmas double characteristic drawing inspiration from Nordic folklore: Elves, a brand new Danish sequence that debuted on Netflix final month, and a pleasant 2010 Finnish movie referred to as Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010).
(Some spoilers beneath however no main reveals.)
Uncommon Exports: A Christmas Story
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale has its roots in a pair of brief movies by a Finnish manufacturing firm specializing in commercials. The primary (Uncommon Exports Inc.), launched on-line in 2003, confirmed a trio of hunters looking out the wilds of Lapland for a wild Santa Claus. It proved so widespread that the corporate launched a sequel brief movie in 2005 (Uncommon Exports: The Official Security Directions). Each had been directed by Jalmari Helander, who ultimately discovered financing to provide a feature-length movie based mostly on the idea. And we’re so very glad he did.
Per the official synopsis:
It is the eve of Christmas in northern Finland, and an ‘archeological’ dig has simply unearthed the actual Santa Claus. However this specific Santa is not the one you need coming to city. When the native youngsters start mysteriously disappearing, younger Pietari and his father Rauno, a reindeer hunter by commerce, seize the mythological being and try to promote Santa to the misguided chief of the multinational company sponsoring the dig. Santa’s elves, nevertheless, will cease at nothing to free their fearless chief from captivity. What ensues is a wildly humorous nightmare—a fantastically weird polemic on modern-day morality.
The movie takes place close to Korvatunturi (Ear Fell) within the Finnish province of Lapland, a spot stated to be the house of a Santa Claus-like determine in Finnish folklore referred to as Joulupukki. The literal translation is “Christmas goat” (or ‘Yuletide goat”), and the folklore determine is normally depicted carrying purple robes, with a sleigh pulled by (non-flying) reindeer. Joulupukki is not essentially an evil creature within the legends, though his goat-like look was stated to frighten youngsters. The model in Uncommon Exports appears to share commonalities with Krampus, a determine from Central and Japanese Alpine lore who assists St. Nicholas, punishing naughty youngsters on Christmas with birch rods
Tonally and aesthetically, Uncommon Exports owes extra to the Brothers Grimm and Tim Burton, than to the cheery wholesomeness of, say, Norman Rockwell or Miracle on 34th Street. Visually, it is fairly placing. Helander’s digicam lingers lovingly over the frigid Lapland panorama, and the story strikes alongside briskly, with all the suitable beats in all the suitable locations.
Onni Tommila, who performs Pietari (and is Helander’s nephew), is an amazingly expressive younger actor who anchors the movie. We really feel his worry and dedication to keep at bay Santa and his elves, fueled partially by his deep must win his father’s grudging approval—significantly given the latest lack of his mom. Bonus: the movie gives its personal clarification for the classic conundrum of how Santa will be so many locations without delay on Christmas eve. All of it provides as much as a genuinely suspenseful, action-packed, and sometimes poignant Christmas story.
Whereas Uncommon Exports riffs on Joulupukki, Elves finds inspiration in what appears to be a mixture of elverfolk that inhabit hills and lumps, and the trolls and huldufólk (“hidden folks”) of Scandinavian folklore. These are wild, forest-dwelling creatures and within the arms of sequence director Ron Ezra, they make very efficient menacing Christmas monsters. Per the official synopsis:
Hoping to reconnect over Christmas, a household of 4 travels to a distant island within the Danish archipelago, solely to search out it managed by members of a strongly spiritual group dwelling in steadiness with fierce creatures within the woods revealed to be… elves. Actual, monstrous beings that impressed the folklore and myths everyone knows. When the woman within the household finds and brings house a child elf, she inadvertently disrupts the steadiness and throws everybody on the island right into a life-or-death battle for religion, household, and pure survival.
The woman who causes all of the chaos is Josefine (Sonja Steen). She has a gentle spot for just about all animals, but her dad and mom—Mads (Peder Thomas Pedersen) and Charlotte (Lila Nobel)—refuse to let her get a canine. That is a choice they’re going to come to remorse. En path to their trip rental, they hit one thing with their automotive, however there is no signal of no matter it was after they get out to research. Josefine ultimately finds the wounded creature: an lovely child elf. She befriends the creature and nurses it again to well being, telling solely her brother, Kasper (Milo Campanale) about its existence.
Alas, the grownup elves do not take kindly to what they interpret because the theft of one in every of their offspring. And when a misguided Josefine decides the elves are being locked up towards their will and turns off the electrical fence maintaining the creatures at bay, issues get bloody in a short time. (The very first scene depicts the providing of a cow by native islanders, which is devoured by unusual, unseen snarling creatures in a matter of minutes, so the elves are formidable opponents.)
Students are inclined to interpret these mythological creatures as consultant of the highly effective forces of nature in a reasonably harsh setting liable to earthquakes, avalanches, volcanoes, and the like. Problem or disrupt that pure order at your peril. That theme is infused all through Elves.
Josefine and her household are disruptive from the beginning, ignoring island handyman Møller’s (Rasmus Hammerich) warning to stay to a selected highway on the island. In addition they minimize down an area tree for his or her Christmas decorations in specific violation of native customs. They cannot plead ignorance both, since that taboo was spelled out for them by Karen (Ann Eleonora Jørgensen), an area lady who has been elevating her orphaned granddaughter Liv (Vivelill Søgaard Holm) to succeed her as island guardian towards the elves.
Josefine, too, ignores the warnings of Karen and Møller, however she additionally has real bond with the newborn elf. That unlikely friendship, and the competing factions intent on maintaining them aside, fuels the emotional stakes of the sequence. Neither can safely inhabit the opposite’s world, and a painful separation appears inevitable. With its six half-hour episodes, Elves is an ideal Christmas binge, and the finale leaves open the potential for a second season—assuming this sleeper gem of a sequence manages to search out an viewers.
Uncommon Exports: A Christmas Story is offered for streaming rental on Amazon Prime Video. In Finnish (with subtitles) and English. Elves is streaming on Netflix. In Danish with English subtitles. And if you’d like a triple characteristic this vacation weekend, attempt including the 1989 French movie, Dial Code: Santa Clause (alternate title: Lethal Video games), to your viewing listing. The darkly violent (like all the perfect fairy tales) predecessor to 1990’s Residence Alone is vailable on Blu-Ray and DVD and effectively definitely worth the funding.