The Finnish Euthanizer (Armomurhaaja) is a feel-good, edgy black comedy that makes fun of several aspects of life. It tells the story of dysfunctional characters, all of whom have their own struggles, and sometimes the only thing the viewers can do is to laugh at them.

Already the very first scene establishes the film’s comedic tone, still, as time goes by more and more events blow the viewers’ minds and force them to constantly train their muscles while smiling and laughing. Both the main character named Veijo and the supporting characters own a bit of awkwardness and are somewhat disconnected from society. While some of them actually try to pretend they are normal, others just can’t control themselves and are up to a fight to prove they are actually worth something, Veijo is not a kind of man who needs to hide behind masks. He is a lone wolf and euthanizes animals others don’t want to keep. He is the man of principles, and even though he might seem harsh and cold from the outside, he has a huge heart for animals and isn’t afraid of teaching a lesson to the owners from time to time. Petri, on the other hand, is the total opposite. It is obvious that he is insecure and is constantly looking for approval. So when a group, a racist one in fact, finally accepts him, he feels empowered and brave enough to attack others stronger than him – even Veijo.

Finnish film-maker Teemu Nikki’s latest feature possibly works on several levels as all of its jokes won’t be necessarily understood by non-Finns or people living outside Finland. However, the film is truly one of a kind and a long exercise for the human soul and body. Even the smallest characters are well-written and contribute enough to the story to legitimize their presence. Similarly to the contrast between Veijo and Petri, the plot is also comprised of scenes that are inherently different in tone and visual, so mundane and extravagant situations follow each other. Nothing is safe in the hands of Nikki, that is for sure. He doesn’t compromise and makes fun of both the very radical and the very normal (socially accepted) behaviour: because, in a way, all kinds of behaviours have been only constructed by society, and are positioned on the scale of normal-abnormal subjectively. It’s no surprise then that stereotypes also play a key role in the film, those are being either destroyed or reinforced. In all cases, they function as the source of humour.

Euthanizer is like a perfectly regulated river and all of its tiny details are designed meticulously. It simply takes full control over the audience members and doesn’t let them go until the credit is over. It effortlessly points out that some social conventions just don’t make any sense. Besides that, it also encourages the viewers to look into themselves without actually identifying any of the characters – or with all of them for that matter. Everyone accumulates a kind of trait, a personal marker that might come across as weird, and their reaction might be very similar in certain situations to those the characters show. Matti Onnismaa, who usually appears in supporting roles, unquestionably gives a flawless performance as Veijo. Even though he doesn’t speak so much, he occupies the screen using his entire body, especially his face. He perfectly balances between extremes and earns the viewers’ sympathy very early on. Jari Virman playing Petri demands his place on the screen as well. He becomes one with his character, which might remind the viewers of a flickering light or a chair with a wobbly leg. And no one really knows when he is going to cry out loud: ARE YOU TALKING TO ME?

Teemu Nikki’s Euthanizer is a low-budget film that is a result of passionate film-making and clear talent. It demonstrates that even with the lack of resources, a great script brought to life by great actors can make a miracle. In other words, a masterpiece.

This review is in the March issue of Cinema Scandinavia. 

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CategoriesIssue 22 Reviews
Barbara Majsa

Barbara is a journalist, editor and film critic. She usually does interviews with film-makers, artists, designers, and writes about cinema, design and books.