Surreal, philosophical, and with a humour darker than a December night in Lapland, The Woodcutter Story is a Finnish tale of hope in the face of seemingly unbearable adversity.
The tagline for The Woodcutter Story runs “Hope is always an option”. And the woodcutter in question, Pepe (Jarkko Lahti), has to be the most hopeful man in existence.
His story takes place in a small, snow-covered town in northern Finland, where a series of increasingly distressing events occur in Pepe’s life in some kind of surreal, almost Lynchian joke. Yet far from being beaten down by things, Pepe’s stoic response is to keep moving forward as if things can only get better (spoiler – they don’t).
It is absurd yet highly philosophical – the mineworkers engage in conversations about the meaning of life and the purpose of being, the women read Sigmund Freud – and mostly lacking in emotion until the very end, which could make it a tricky film to settle in to.
I worked with Finns for several years and their bizarre, understated humour and lack of quick emotion is something which I have experienced for myself. It seems to take a lot to rattle them, and this is how director Mikko Myllylahti manages to make a strange comedy out of the bleakest series of events – I can’t imagine it working anywhere other than Finland.
The Woodcutter Story is definitely a film which requires a particular disposition to be able to spend time with it and fully appreciate its strange, absurd, and totally bleak humour. If that’s what you’re looking for, then go for it!