Reindeerspotting - Escape from Santaland (2010)
Reindeerspotting - Escape from Santaland (2010)
Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.
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Critic Reviews for Reindeerspotting - Escape from Santaland
Long after you forget Jani's story, you'll remember the way the snowy landscapes look, and the surreal beauty of a nighttime reindeer race.
While it never hits the gritty heights of you-are-there junky journalism à la Larry Clark's Tulsa, you still feel as if you've personally toured the abyss.
Audience Reviews for Reindeerspotting - Escape from Santaland
An affecting portrait of a pointless life. The subject, Jani, is a 19 year old welfare recipient and small-time thief, addicted to opiates and sharing a flat with fellow addicts in a desolate Arctic city. The cinema verite style documentary is filmed by a friend and fellow user. As his life spirals downward, we follow Jani on a European binge where he discovers that the change of locale has not provided the motivation he sought to turn his life around. Despite his weakness, and thanks to the first-time director's impressive ability to make a documentary subject into a real person, we cannot help becoming fond of Jani and hopeful he can rejoin the world of the living. The conclusion gives us no reason to be optimistic. And for those willing to Google the lives of both director and subject in the years following this film's release, the news is even more dispiriting. Even the young can fall prey to the harsh verdict of an indifferent universe.
Usually there's some kind of a resolution in documentaries. That's why we watch these random slices of somebody else's life. We want to see a particular situation go from problem to solution, and so on. Reindeerspotting manages to identify the problem, but accomplishes little else. If you're one of those happy ending types, look elsewhere. Director Joonas Neuvonen wants to show us the seedy underbelly of his hometown in northern Finland. More specifically, he wants to tell us the story of his drug addicted buddy, Jani Raapana. While interesting in a train wreck sort of way, watching a junkie go about his day-to-day activities grows tiresome after a half hour or so. It grows especially tiresome when you realize this filmmaker isn't going to show us anything other than what we already know: his friend has problems. Jani is a slacker merely going through the motions of life: Alive but not living, awake but not aware, conscious but not cognizant, he basically does little else other than exist. Having already surrendered two of his fingers, via axe, to a dealer for defaulting on a drug transaction, Jani is obviously apathetic about most everything. Seemingly incapable of any kind of initiative other than stuffing his veins with a cheap heroin substitute called Subutex, he's more or less a nihilist. Look at the very bottom of his priority list and you will find the word "Care." This however, should not surprise anyone. The epithet of any good junkie is selfishness. After a while, his scheming and jonesing become repetitive and we find ourselves wondering if a lesson will be learned. Seeing a man shoot up nonstop for over an hour eventually loses it's thrill. At least petty thievery is there to keep him busy when he's not high. Normally, this is where a good filmmaker will enlighten us with a solution. Sure, once in a while things might may take a turn for the worse, but typically it serves a purpose. The subject learns a lesson and so forth. Whether it's by self realization or a change of circumstance, in most documentaries things improve. Not in this case. Eventually, Jani rips off a grocery store for over five thousand euros. Wasting no time, he immediately blows town for a whirlwind tour of Europe, in the process avoiding a year-long prison sentence for being a habitual criminal. First stop: Paris, home of Subutex. The French government provides it as an alternative to heroin in order to ween addicts off of dope, ala Methadone. Jani wastes no time in purchasing a ridiculous amount of the stuff from the first junkie he lays eyes on at the train station. At this point we all know it's just a matter of time until our hero blows through his money, we just hope that he'll learn something along the way. Actually, Jani does learn a lesson on this trip: He learns about the joy of heroin. Yes, after a brief stop across the Straight of Gilbraltar on the African continent, Jani tries some of the good stuff. Although he never mentioned previously that he was interested in smack, it doesn't really surprise us when he proudly scores a small amount of the drug for experimentation. Shortly after, he returns home to Finland and gets arrested again, thus ending our European vacation. A brief bit of narrative and a few short scenes at the film's conclusion informs us that Jani is doing no better after being released from prison. Sadly, he's now shooting heroin and seems content to ride that horse with impunity. We begin to wonder why no friends or family ever seem to make even the slightest effort to save him. Devoid of cheer, this documentary struggles to connect with the viewer. There are a few small moments that save the film however. Sprinkled throughout are a few narrative instances of deep thoughts from Jani. Profoundly judicious and poetically dismal at the same time, these sparse monologues offer insight into this desperate addict's psyche. He's not the uncaring, mindless junkie we thought he was. While we wish nothing but the best for Jani, his demise isn't something that people will lose sleep over. It's hard to care for a man who doesn't care about himself.
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