Judge Eric Profancik doesn't get a lot of Finnish pseudo-erotica on his docket... but there's a first time for everything.
Rule One: We film everything.
The Finnish import Young Gods (or Hymypoika) is a confusing film, because you're not entirely certain what it's trying to do. Is it meant to titillate and excite, or is there a hidden message to Finnish teens hidden between the lines that I can't quite determine? Am I missing the context because I know nothing about Finland? Oh, now I get it; the TV spot in the bonus features finally clued me in: "Based on an urban legend."
Taavi has just turned eighteen, and he has come into his inheritance, which includes his family home. To celebrate, he invites his friends over, and they have a wild party. As is wont to happen, the teens end up naked and having sex. One person who doesn't partake in those festivities is Taavi; he prefers to use his ever-present video camera to film his friends in flagrante delicto. The next day Taavi shows Jere, Sami, and Markus his tape, and, based on what they see, the four decide to form a club. The sole pursuit of this club is for each young man to secretly film himself having sex. Any rational person might see the folly of such a thing, but these four do not, and their pursuit of taped pleasure will change each of their lives and the lives of those that they love.
Not knowing this film is based on a Finnish urban legend did leave me confused, but putting that spin on it helped clear everything up. I realized there wasn't a hidden subtext; there wasn't an attempt to teach kids to be less sexual. Nope. It was just an easy springboard for a story. In some ways I did enjoy Young Gods, for the style and feel of the film is different from American fare. I can't put my finger on it exactly, but maybe it's just that Finland is someplace I haven't seen on film before. One thing I am sure of is that the teenagers in the film (if they really are teens or just very young looking twenty-somethings) act extremely well here. I was pulled into each of their plights and believed the evolution of each situation. The way things spun out of control really pulled me in during the final act. Add to that some nice direction, and Young Gods is an interesting film—from a certain point of view.
Point of view? Well, there is quite a bit of sex in this film. If that makes you uncomfortable, then you will be doing quite a lot of squirming in this one. Even I was blushing at times, because these actors all look like they're 14 or 15. They look so young; they don't look 18, and they certainly don't look old enough for the abundance of full frontal nudity in Young Gods, both male and female—though there's a lot more of the former than the latter. Toss into the mix some rape, homosexuality, bondage, and other kinky escapades, and you have one naughty, naughty film. Since I could not find the film's rating and because of the explicit sex, I am presuming this disc contains an unrated version of the film.
Young Gods takes a while to get going. The boys don't put their club together until the end of act one (30 minutes), and things don't begin to spin out of control until another 30 minutes in. Watching the lengths Jere (or as I call him, the skinny, pasty kid with the funky blonde hair) will go to for a good tape, and learning about Taavi's twisted secret in the final act, is compelling and saves the rest of the film. (It's sad to take enjoyment of other's pain.) The buildup is too slow, but the payoff is just about worth it.
The DVD comes with a sparkling 2.35:1 anamorphic print that doesn't have a defect in sight, even though it's composed of two styles: the usual, third-person omnipresent, and selections from Taavi's ever-growing library. For the audio, all of your options are in Finnish, and, oddly, the English subtitle default is off. Still, the 5.1 mix is strong and aggressive with no hiss, distortion, or other problems. Included are a few bonus items, a TV spot (subtitled in English), a music video, and a score of trailers for movies you've never heard of: Young Gods, Schizo, Beach Cafe, The Great Water, 15, You I Love, Clara's Summer, But Forever, In My Mind, Breakin' Out, Just a Question of Love, The Accidental Hero, and To the Extreme.
For the smattering of fans of the film, feel free to pick this one up. For those who might have an interest in this type of film, give it a rental. For the rest of you, I think you can skip this one.
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