Monday, October 08, 2012

Raindance: INDEBTED

From Finland - a crime drama about two women who could not be more different: a broke college student who is struggling to pay her bills, and a *tough* mob leg breaker who is sent in to collect debts. If Sam Fuller had written and directed Bergman’s PERSONA it might be this film!

Ellie (Heidi Linden) is a broke college girl who can’t even afford her own beers after class, and depends on the kindness of her friends. When the bills pile up she reluctantly pawns her grandmother’s necklace - a family heirloom - and now has two months to make enough money to buy it back. But there is no way that she can keep up with her bills *and* make enough money to buy back the necklace... Until she meets a businessman in a bar who likes her, and she goes home with him and has sex... and the next morning as she is doing the walk of shame she finds $300 in her purse. A gift? Later when another businessman hits on her in a bar, she says it will cost him $150... and he says yes. Next thing you know, she’s earning enough money to pay off her bills sleeping with businessmen. This is not who she thinks she is... a tear in her identity. She still thinks of herself as a struggling college student, even though she can now buy designer shoes.

Meanwhile, in the back room of that pawnshop a different kind of loan business - the mob’s loanshark enforcers lead by badass female leg-breaker Iris (Kristina Puukko) and her team prepare to collect money... one way or another.  You may be imagining that Iris is some big butch woman - but she buys her T shirts in the petite section. But that doesn’t stop her from being crazy violent. Her team of strong men are afraid of her - she has a knife and will slice you open for looking at her funny. In a series of scenes we see her and the team beat the crap out of people behind on their payments... and eventually run into a debtor who has hired a bunch of huge bodyguards. Even though she gets stabbed, she makes sure all of the huge bodyguards have several broken bones and that they collect the money from the debtor. Iris’ wound is sewn up by Andrei (Juha Arola) - and she lowers her guard and puts her knife away long enough to make love with him. This is a badass babe who becomes vulnerable for a moment... and it frightens her. This is not who she thinks she is... a tear in her identity.

When Andrei sees Ellie in the pawnshop and then later in a bar, he starts a romantic relationship with her - and connects the two women in an unexpected way. When Iris discovers the relationship, she finds herself jealous... not used to having someone take what she thinks is hers. Eventually the two women are brought together in some very violent ways - and end up forced to work together when the mob that Iris works for comes after her and she has no place to hide but with Ellie.

The director Marton Jelinko does an amazing job of linking scenes of each woman with the other - one of the things I often stress in Script Tips and articles is *story flow*, how one scene leads logically to the next. In the portion of the film before the two women’s lives intersect, Jelinko brilliantly links the women visually - cutting from one woman looking out a window over the city at night to the other woman in a similar position looking over the city at night. You are never confused and the story never has the stop-and-start feeling that are major flaws in some big budget studio films like SYRIANA. Even before the two women share a scene - they share the *story* visually. Like Bergman’s PERSONA we see how these two very different women’s lives are on a collision course both physically and emotionally. For a first film made for no money, this is an amazing little thriller.

INDEBTED is a film that grows on you - it begins as an indie style drama and as each of the women cross a line they never thought they would have to cross becomes darker and darker until it becomes a full fledged thriller where the characters are forced to deal with one intense and violent situation after another. After seeing the film I liked it... but days later I was still thinking about it. The characters and situations are both realistic and brutal, and you realize these things might happen to you or someone you know... if they owe money to the wrong people.

I believe the actress who plays Iris is probably a romantic lead in most films - she’s playing way against type - but gives a chilling performance in a role usually given to men. Gritty, edgy, and dark - a movie about women in completely non-traditional roles.

PS: And the winner is...  INDEBTED for Best Debut Feature! This was one of my two juries, and my #1 pick, so I’m very happy that it won. And when it was time to hand out the Award on Saturday night, it was my pleasure to open the envelope, read the winning film’s title, and hand the award to the filmmakers. Well deserved! I hope this film gets some form of distribution in the US, because it’s the kind of movie they don’t make here. Congratulations again to the filmmakers!

- Bill


Martin_B said...

The only Finnish movie I've seen was Frozen Land (2005), based on a Tolstoy story, about a guy who counterfeits some money and all the bad things that follow.

I'm not sure if it was a drama or a black, black comedy, but it was very good and I remember it long after I have forgotten other movies.

Martin_B said...

Found the trailer on YouTube.

film indebted - tralier

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