It Came From Finland! 'Hatching' and 'Girl Picture' at Sundance 2022
by Alex Billington
January 27, 2022
There are two excellent films from Finland playing at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival this year. Both are great discoveries at the fest – and both deserve to be talked about, too. The first one is a portrait of Finnish youth called Girl Picture, though the original Finnish title is much better - Tytöt Tytöt Tytöt which just translates to Girls Girls Girls (watch the trailer). The second one is a freaky little horror comedy film called Hatching, also known as Pahanhautoja in Finnish (watch the trailer), about a girl who finds a strange egg that becomes big and hatches something evil. Both of them feature similar themes of perfectionism, growing up, what it's like to be a girl in Finland, and how hard it is to deal with parents. But they're very different films and I'm delighted to report that each one is enjoyable and worth watching. While there are plenty of films coming out of Norway & Sweden already, talented Finnish filmmakers are finally on the rise now, too.
Directed by filmmaker Alli Haapasalo, and written by Ilona Ahti & Daniela Hakulinen, Girl Picture is an authentic and endearing look at the lives of modern Finnish teenagers and their sexual awakening. "Mimmi, Emma and Rönkkö are girls at the cusp of womanhood, trying to draw their own contours." It's a film about first love and young romance and being wild, but it's also a film about the pressures put on young women, and the intensity to participate in the world of sex and intimacy. The film is another in a growing movement of new films about young women, allowing us to see how complex and dynamic they are at this time in their lives. Ninja Baby is another favorite (from Norway), along with Mustang (from Turkey) plus Rocks (from the UK). There's even the film Summering also at Sundance 2022, essentially a remake of Stand By Me but about four young girls instead. The filmmaker's are connecting their own experiences to these films, but also allowing the next generations to express themselves through cinema. Which is always so refreshing to see.
While the film isn't a complete knock out, it is an engaging and fascinating film full of energy and honesty. These three Finnish teens deal with all the good and bad that comes from young love, including stress and frustration and excitement. I very much appreciate that we are given a chance to see the world from entirely new perspectives, learning about their experiences and their challenges directly from them. It is especially interesting to see how female filmmakers have been revolutionizing cinema in the past decade, because it's not only about telling more stories about women, it's also rethinking the stories overall and how they're told to begin with. And to top it off, it's just a damn good film and that makes a difference. The performances are believable and leave a last impression because they're authentic; these three actresses – Aamu Milonoff & Eleonoora Kauhanen & Linnea Leino – are speaking from experience. This is the kind of fantastic film that might change someone's life when they discover it and see the world in a way they never understood before.
Directed by filmmaker Hanna Bergholm, and written by Ilja Rautsi, Hatching is something else entirely. It's an original horror creation that is not as scary as it seems, much sweeter and entertaining. The film is about a young girl named Tinja, played by Siiri Solalinna, the daughter in a "perfect" Finnish family along with her brother and parents. Hatching is also about what it's like to be a young girl in modern Finland, but the focus is more on perfectionism, and much more on the family dynamic. It's a very clean film with bright cinematography, despite some seriously horrifying moments. Out in the forest near her house, she finds a strange bird's egg that she brings home and cares for. All while dealing with the pressure of being a perfect gymnast, with parents who either don't care about her or care that she's exactly what they want, and not what she wants to be. This egg keeps growing until it's almost as big as her, eventually hatching something freaky as fuck. But she becomes friends with this creature, and soon learns there's more to it than expected.
I don't recommend watching Hatching unless you can stomach horror and can handle watching something this unsettling. This one has some especially gross, extra weird, crazy ass shit happening in it - most of it involving the disgusting creature that hatches from the giant egg she nurtures. And the practical effects, the creature design, are extraordinary. I don't know how they did it, but I was cringing a few times just watching this thing interact with her. The way the film plays out from this point on is both good and bad. It gets a bit muddled at times, but it maintains its sweeter side that this girl brings to the story. She's not evil (or is she?) and she just wants to be herself, whatever that might mean. It reminded me of the iconic horror film The Babadook, also built around the relationship between a mother and her child, never straying too far from the core of the story into pure horror. There are definitely scary scenes in this but the focus is on Tinja, and what she is going through as a young girl growing up. Don't you want to find out what's hiding in that egg?