Finland / 69 minutes / color / Kuvanaamat, Sarastus Dir & Cine: Jussi Einola Pr: Joonas Einola Scr: Joonas Einola, Jussi Einola Story: Jussi Einola Cast: Minna Rimpilä, Alarik Pöntinen, Laura Leikas, Milja Laamanen, Jani Honkaselkä, Petteri Väisänen, Juha Jokela, Edvard Lammervo, Jarno Elonen, Arto Kuurlunti.
Prostitute Anni (Rimpilä), who insists she’s not making the game her career but shows no signs of trying to escape from it, inevitably falls foul one night of a violent john. Although she escapes with the money she’s owed, she’s in no condition to find her way home. She wakes next morning to discover that a man named Karo (Pöntinen) has rescued her back to his pad, let her sleep in his bed while he took the couch, and now makes no advance more aggressive than giving her his name and phone number.
Anni (Minna Rimpilä) rues the rigors of her trade.
Soon they’re in the throes of a very charming love affair. Anni abandons prostitution—with a solitary relapse when someone offers her triple rate—and Karo tells her he will likewise abandon his life of crime after One Last Job, a heist that will set them up for life. However, Karo is not being strictly honest with her. He has told her his crimes are dealing on the black market and the like when in fact he’s the hardened enforcer of vicious gang boss Taisto (Jokela); he works in tandem with the merrily psychopathic Ilu (Laamanen), who thinks nothing of killing and regards gratuitous torture as a way of passing the time when she’s bored. It’s Ilu’s sadism and his realization that he could all too easily become sufficiently brutalized by his job that, as much as his love for Anni, persuade Karo it’s time to give up the enforcer role.
Karo (Alarik Pöntinen) and Anni (Minna Rimpilä) rediscover the meaning of life.
Karo enlists his pal Tumppi (Väisänen) to help him in the heist, and Anni insists on coming along as getaway driver. Unfortunately, Ilu has come across some of Karo’s notes about the job, and put two and two together. Regarding the heist as a betrayal of her boss Taisto, she turns up just as the robbery’s underway, and starts shooting. Tumppi and Ilu die in the shootout—with Anni becoming a reluctant participant—while Karo is mortally wounded. Although Anni escapes with him and the money, he dies soon after.
Ilu (Milja Laamanen) wades into the final shootout.
In the later scenes we find Anni is now the mother of a young child—presumably Karo’s—and owns a record store. However, if she thought that the world of organized crime had forgotten about her . . .
The core tale of Anni is fairly simple, and follows a template that recurs quite frequently in noir and noirish movies, yet this is a piece that succeeds on many different levels.
The movie’s website gives a little background:
Anni is the first feature film made by the Einola brothers. The original storyline took shape as a short story during the fall of 2007, and the first script was done a year later. The decision to go independent was made in early 2009 and the production started in July of that same year. The movie was shot in three very intensive weeks, as a contrast to the post-production, which took over a year and a half to complete—mainly because of day jobs. The movie was completed in February 2011.
The movie was made on a voluntary basis. In addition to the production team of 30 people, there were a number of extras, individuals and companies who took part in making this movie.
Although I don’t speak Finnish so it’s difficult for me to evaluate the “voluntary” performances fully, they seem impeccable. Rimpilä is delightfully engaging in the lead role and Pöntinen, as the soft-spoken, well mannered thug who develops a conscience, matches her; one of the movie’s great strengths is that these two very effectively challenge any stereotypes we might have of whore and enforcer.
Laura (Laura Leikas), Anni’s long-suffering best bud.
They’re offered excellent support by Laamanen as Karo’s sociopathic partner and by Leikas as Anni’s plain-jane best friend Laura; one of the more memorable sequences sees the rather prim Laura decide that, just once, she’ll try out Anni’s freewheeling prostitution to see what it’s like . . . and she discovers it’s a bit naff, really.
As Karo dies, all Anni (Minna Rimpilä) can do is be there.
The demise of Ilu (Milja Laamanen).
Jussi Einola’s cinematography is flawless, usually unostentatious but sometimes capturing scenes of breathtaking beauty—it’s the kind of camerawork that for some reason European movies seem to manage far more often than their Hollywood counterparts. The cityscape, presumably of Helsinki, that serves as backdrop to the opening credits would be the envy of any cinematographer, with two trams almost exactly mirroring each other as one travels toward and the other away from the viewer. The visual effect is almost like watching a developing fractal.
Good direction and a simple but surprisingly effective soundtrack (by Simo Salo) round out what’s one of the best low-budget indies I’ve seen in years—indeed, the low-budget aspect is invisible. This should have had a theatrical release; as it is, you can see it (subtitled) on the movie’s official website or find it on YouTube.