Finnish filmmaker Rax Rinnekangas has created an intriguing experimental feature film that mixes discussions of architectural design with ruminations on regret, loneliness and lost dreams.
Middle-aged architect Theo (Hannu-Pekka Bjorkman) is the sole off-season guest at a grand German hotel – only a languid groundskeeper and a mute maid are on call. Theo is plagued with memories of what he considered to be bad career choices, most notably the creation of visually atrocious high-rise apartment complexes in Helsinki – he calls them “stillborns” and is anguished that his work has created urban blight. His former business partner Vincent (Ville Virtanen) arrives for a reunion, which turns into an intellectual debate. Theo would rather spend his time wandering in solitude across the hotel’s vast grounds while writing an endless letter to Clara, a woman he only knew from a single childhood encounter.
The film feels like an unlikely merging of “Last Year in Marienbad” and “My Dinner with Andre,” with a bit of Kane’s Rosebud thrown in. Moviegoers that demand speed and action will be baffled by the film’s leisurely pacing and obsession with architectural aesthetics, but those with a love for avant-garde cinema will appreciate Rinnekangas’ masterful dissection of rueful memories and Bjorkman’s subtle performance of a man that has become imprisoned by endless considerations of his unhappy life. And special praise is needed for Pekka Uotila’s cinematography, which beautifully contrasts the lush glory of the hotel’s leafy grounds with the misery of the charmless apartment buildings of Theo’s creation.