Warsaw 2013 Review: Harsh Reality Shows Its True Face In The Dreamy CONCRETE NIGHT

Patryk Czekaj, Contributing Writer
Finnish film Concrete Night opens as a dream, and though it tells a riveting story set in a real-life location it stays in the dream-like realm throughout its running time, mostly due to gorgeous, properly muted, sharp and contrasted black and white photography, synced perfectly with a notable set of classical music pieces. While the story feels very authentic and its hard-hitting realism depicted through a series of scrupulously matched scenes of brutality and vulgarism might stay in one's mind for a long time, the way the film is depicted brings to mind a surprisingly peaceful yet graphic odyssey meant to serve as a ambiguous metaphor of sorts. The story of a 14-year old boy in search of his true identity somehow relates to the viewpoint that the movie itself promotes - humanity is on its way to a complete downfall and there's no possible chance to stop this horrifying process.

Pirjo Honkasolo's film is based on a novel of the same name written by Pirkko Saisio. It's been adapted to modern times and takes place in one of Helsinki's slums. It centers on the aforementioned teenage boy named Simo, lost in the brutal world that surrounds him. He lives with his soon to be imprisoned brother Ilkka and aging mother, who seems completely detached from reality. In this seriously pathological family love and happiness are nowhere to be found, and the way the characters interact with each other is distinctly cold and atrocious.

Having his older brother for an only role model, Simo simply can't distinguish between good and bad, finding pleasure in a reckless life composed of smoking, drinking and swearing. His narrow-mindedness and instilled prejudice towards other people leads him to some controversial decisions, as he finally tries to fight brutality with brutality. Seeing no way out of the small, decaying community that he lives in Simo subconsciously realizes that by doing lots of damage he might be able to let the world know of the pain that he carries in his distorted heart.

Simo's journey, though lasting only for one day and one night, presents itself as a moralizing tale with deeper philosophical background. All the recurring characters, which aren't well educated and bright to say the least, are still aware of their position in this harsh world and the conversations that they have occasionally correspond to the all the most feared scenarios for the future of the entire human race.

Due to its toned down ambiance and highly contrasted cinematography Concrete Night looks like a series of oneiric vignettes, linked by Simo's interactions with different characters during which he not accidentally goes through the process of growing up. Every sequence brings him closer to a breakdown, which gives the climax an even bigger influence on the finale. A finale, in which Simo's worst nightmare so exquisitely presented in the opening scene finally merges with reality. Though a tragic one, there's actually something beautiful and calming about that ending. Almost as in Shakespearean tragedies Simo's moral weakness and wrongdoings lead to his downfall, but the way it's depicted doesn't emphasize his faults but rather highlights his childish innocence.
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