Saturday, September 9th, 2006
The first of my two TIFF films this year was the world premiere of the Finnish martial arts film Jade Warrior (or Jadesoturi) which I figured would either be extremely amazing or extremely awful – but definitely extreme. No middle ground.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t an extreme film at all but quite slow and subtle. There were a number of martial arts sequences which were quite well coreographed and performed, but a lot of the film is rather talky. Basically, it’s a combination of the Kalevala, the epic poem integral to the Finnish national identity, and Wuxia martial arts stories. As the director told in the Q&A, it’s not an explicit adaptation of the former, but rather draws inspiration from the idea of a mythic hero who never gets the girl. In Jade Warrior, said hero’s story begins in ancient China as he prepares to face his destiny in defeating a demon and runs in parallel with his reincarnation as a modern-day blacksmith who is despondent over losing his girlfriend. Fate, in the form of a mysterious metal chest allegedly holding the key to happiness in the world, intervenes and ties the two together.
I admit I found parts of the film bewildering, probably mainly because of the unfamiliarity with the myths being drawn upon, but it was still quite engrossing and well-executed, especially considering the modest budget. It was made for under three million Euros but you really can’t tell – it never overreaches in the visual effects department and thus looks fine for the most part. The only aspect I really found to be bad was lead actor Tommi Eronen’s attempts to speak Mandarin. Obviously he learned his lines phonetically, but whoever was coaching him should be ashamed – his cadence is so slow, awkward and unnatural that he comes off more as mentally challenged than chosen by destiny. A relatively minor complaint, I guess, but still annoying.
But while I don’t know that Euro-Asian martial arts hybrids will be the next big thing in international filmmaking, based on Jade Warrior it is definitely a concept that’s worth investigating. As long it’s more like this and less like Kung Fu…
Trailer: Jade Warrior (Flash)
Okay, off to the islands.