Published Sep 24, 2008This historical epic cum existential nightmare is the perfect horror film for people who dont like horror films. Two Finnish brothers are charged with charting a new border between Sweden and Russia at the end of a long war. The year is 1595 and the northern swamps of then-nonexistent Finland provide a harsh and unforgiving backdrop for the tale.
The two brothers (one hardened by years of war, the other still naïve and hopeful) are haunted by an unnecessary act of cruelty they participated in before the beginning of their journey. When they arrive in a strange, near-childless village in the middle of the swamp, the Finns and Russians are all pulled into the orbit of the ominous, ancient sauna that looms in the murky waters on the edge of the gloomy outpost.
Thoughtful, complex and bleak, Sauna builds a perfect picture of a people so beaten by years of war that they have essentially ceased to exist. The Finnish brothers are charged with the task of charting a border between Sweden and Russia in what is clearly present-day Finland, and was even then populated by Finns, none of whom were taken into account in the battle between the two great powers except as tools used by one side or the other.
Building an oppressive atmosphere and dark, foreboding tone for the first half of the film, Sauna does provide some awesome payoff for true horror fans towards the end but this is a film for people who enjoy suspense, tension and Tarkovski-esque slow pacing. Plus, the bleak swampland is shot gorgeously and the actors are great. (Bronson Club)