Monday, October 12, 2009

Oct 15 VIFF Pick: Letters To Father Jacob

Letters to Father Jacob [Finland]
Thu, Oct 15th 6:20pm
Empire Granville 7

A simple but transcendent story about faith and human frailty achieves a state of grace in Letters to Father Jacob. Centring on a tough ex-con temporarily serving as an amanuensis for a blind pastor in rural Finland, director Klaus Härö's magisterial control over the proceedings renders predictable material into something fresh and heart-rending, particularly for thoughtful audiences.

Surprised at being pardoned 12 years into a life sentence, hard-bitten killer Leila (Kaarina Hazard) takes the prison warden’s suggestion and winds up at the ramshackle parsonage of Father Jacob. The elderly man needs a secretary to pursue his main joy in life: answering the letters of those who write asking for his help. Although Leila regards the pastor’s correspondence as pointless, it ultimately plays a role in her own redemption and self-forgiveness.

In what’s essentially a perfectly cast two-hander, both leads provide remarkable, exquisitely calibrated performances. The heavyset masculine-looking Hazard (a feminist academic and writer) makes one feel a lifetime of repressed anger in Leila’s stomping and banging, while Nousiainen (a TV vet) movingly conveys Jacob’s anguish and vulnerability... Working in wide screen, prize-winning cinematographer Tuomo Hutri supplies director Härö’s trademark lush visuals, while an affecting piano score gives extra weight to big emotional moments.

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