A Nightmarish Fairytale: a review of They Have Escaped

Screening at the Scandinavian Film Festival 2015 in Australia

They Have Escaped is a film that has been dividing audiences since it first debuted at the Goteborg Film Festival. As the second feature from Finnish director J.P. Valkepaa (The Visitor) (read our interview with him here), the film plays with conventional themes and plot devices, leaving the audience constantly on the edge of their seats and unsure of what to expect. However, this isn’t a bad thing – rather, the film is executed incredibly well.

The story sounds familiar: a boy and a girl with radically different personalities meet in a detention centre and decide to escape. Setting off on a road to nowhere, they get to know each other and gradually bond. Joni (Teppo Manner) is a shy nineteen year old who remains silent after being bullied for stuttering, and Raisa (Roosa Soderholm) is a bleached, heavily made-up seventeen year old looking to rebel at any cost.

The start of the film features a series of slow, cliched scenes that are sure to turn audiences away. However, there is a certain uneasy atmosphere with an underlying tension that suggests you stick around, and several short, nightmarish flashes further foreshadow that something lies ahead.Whenever warmth begins to show, it is rudely interrupted by loud and bothersome sounds of thumping, screaming or anything you’d typically hear in horror films. This is a film that plays with sinister and mysterious charges of dreams, while the plot-line drastically changes from pleasant to downright horrific. This is something hard to achieve, but the cinematography, editing, and audio perfectly carries the film along. By the end of the film, you are left speechless after encountering a series of nightmarish circumstances that the teenagers are stuck in.

They Have Escaped is not a film for everyone, and the divided reviews show that. The film increasingly turns into a nightmarish fairytale, taking on an eerie pallor by the end. There is almost a surreal quality of the final scenes that is completely opposite to the films opening and suggests how brutally teenagers can be lost in a world they are expected to understand. That said, I really recommend this film as it is excellent viewing.


CategoriesFinland Reviews
Emma Vestrheim

Emma Vestrheim is the editor-in-chief of Cinema Scandinavia. Originally from Australia, she is now based in Bergen, Norway, and attends major Nordic film festivals to conduct interviews and review new films.

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