Concrete Night

Not available for screening anymore

Concrete Night

Directed by Pirjo Honkasalo

  • Finland, Sweden, Denmark 2013; 96 min
  • Original version: Finnish
  • Genre: Drama
    • Best Supporting Actor Award - Lecce
    • Golden Arena for International Film - Pula FF

  • Toronto IFF - Masters
    Finnish Submission for the Academy Awards


A fourteen-year-old boy in a stifling Helsinki slum takes some unwise life lessons from his soon-to-be-incarcerated older brother, in Finnish master Pirjo Honkasalo’s gorgeously stylized and emotionally devastating work about what we pass on to younger generations, and the ways we do it. Finnish master Pirjo Honkasalo's feverish, stylized CONCRETE NIGHT, a glimpse at the imaginative life of a fourteen-year-old boy, is an aesthetic tour de force — an emotionally devastating work about what we pass on to younger generations, and the ways we do it. The film is set during summer in a stifling Helsinki slum so eerily run down that a sticky sense of revulsion emanates from each location, from the industrial wastelands where young Simo (Johannes Brotherus) hangs out (his swimming hole is a bay beside a huge toxic-looking factory on the outskirts of town) to its various hothouse apartments. Peter Flinckenberg's creepily precise black-and-white cinematography and a muted soundscape create a claustrophobic sense of dread — while stripping the atmosphere of any temporal context. The unmoored setting perfectly reflects Simo's anxiety and confusion about the world around him. The pivotal issue is the imminent departure of Simo's older brother, Ikko (Jari Virman), the closest thing he has to a father, who's being sent to jail for six months on a minor drug charge. With incarceration looming, Ikko takes the opportunity to leave behind a few noxious pearls of wisdom on the sexes ("You can always hit a woman. They enjoy it, but only hit a man if you have to.") and humanity in general. We, Ikko explains, are the only species foolish enough to live in the future. Simo soaks it all up — and indeed, the film's most painful and touching moments come when he tries to adopt his brother's tough-guy poses. A bizarrely seamless fusion of Coppola's Rumble Fish, De Sica's The Children Are Watching Us, and early David Lynch, Concrete Night is a cautionary tale about the attitudes and stances we cavalierly adopt without realizing the impact they have on those in our charge. Here, the children aren't just watching us, they're listening — and repeating.

Director's Statement

CONCRETE NIGHT is not a film about school killings, mass murdersm or the Chechen brothers in Boston. It's a film about a young mind that was shattered long before the all-encompassing misanthropy may have got a hold of it. This is a film about the metaphysics of coincidences in a world which we, blinded by our delusional omnipotences, think we have control over and thus the ability to destroy. The protagonist of the film, 14 year-old Simo, is the fragile and sensitive surface reflecting all the rumblings that take place around him. Simo, lacking the ability to distort what he sees or change it to something more pleasing to him, sees the world accurately, just as it is. Life is unbearable when seen without a filter. Humans can't live that way. Being an adult means building walls. This is what author Marja-Leena Mikkola wrote about Pirkko Saisio's novel in the 1980's: "Edward Munch's famous painting THE SCREAM arouses a sense of unease in the spectator. The face of the screaming creature has no expression, and yet it draws the spectator in. One is compelled to look intensely at the gaping mouth of the face, one cannot escape from it. I expereienced something similar to this when I read Pirkko Saisio's CONCRETE NIGHT. It has been ripped of everthing superfluous - pity, tenderness, hatred, irony - all the remained was this scream, this howl. In CONCRETE NIGHT everything is dead for good. We've seen both mentally and physically neglected young people in suburbanghettos before. They have something that Simo doesn't; a subculture of their own and some concept of themselves. In CONCRETE NIGHT simo is an outsider, a faceless young man. Lefting Sumo and his environment into the focus of literal description is an act of love of sorts. The toal (and successful) settling inside Simo is an even greater one. The author accepts Simo." I, too, accept Simo. August 2013 Pirjo Honkasalo



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