I’m still slightly behind on my 25 Days so expect another post soon, it will definitely happen considering the second film is short. Anyway, this entry’s film is the 2010 foreign film Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale. This is a funky film that I heard about from the fine guys at FilmSchoolRejects.com and figured I’d give it a look. It’s definitely one of the weirder films to take on the story of Santa Claus, and the film boasts at the end “Made in the Real Place of Santa Claus” or something to that effect. The film combines comedy, fantasy, a bit of mystery, and a whole lot of naked old men to show that Santa’s origins have been a bit less than jolly. Add in a sweet father/son relationship and you don’t get a perfect film, but certainly an original one.
On Christmas Eve in a small town in Finland, a group of archeologists unearth a mysterious object. Right around the same time a reindeer herder named Rauno (Jorma Tommila) finds a body that turns out to be a live man with a mysterious past. Rauno’s son Pietari (Onni Tommila) knows that the man is Santa Claus, or at least one of Santa’s elves that’s desperate to free whatever has been unearthed by the archeologists. As children in the town start to go missing, Pietari, who has discovered that Santa originated as a person who took naughty children, fears he’s next.
There’s a lot of elements going on in this movie that can make it hard to keep track of what the main narrative is. The film opens with some greedy archeologists cutting into a mountain to find some object. Cut to Pietari and his young friend who happen to overhear everything. After a reindeer massacre, Pietari learns that it’s possible Santa Claus, not the jolly Coca-Cola one, but the real evil one, is coming to take all the naughty children. It’s a bit haphazard in how it’s made, but once it settles down you’re immersed in the mystery of the town as Pietari tries to convince the adults that Santa Claus is coming to take him…of course he meets some resistance.
Once Santa Claus actually appears, it takes a turn for the horrific. Pietari is forced to come up with a plan to prevent the elves from releasing their master, and that’s where I think the movie falls a bit flat. There’s so many elements that seem to rush by so quickly. The father/son relationship between Pietari and his father is briefly touched on, and as soon as the group of men find Santa or the elf as it’s revealed, it goes into a lengthy action sequence that just feels like it belongs in a different movie. I loved the ending though. I won’t spoil it, but suffice it to say the men teach Santa’s elves the true meaning of Christmas. I just wish we had spent more time unearthing the mystery of Santa and the elves and the fear that Pietari feels about being taken. It just felt that this movie moved rapidly with very little to keep me engaged. I generally like foreign film, but it was hard for me to stay focused on this.
The acting is great, especially from the little boy playing Pietari, and the Santas are truly frightening. I definitely will be looking at the Santa at the mall with a sideways glance. I’m glad I saw Rare Exports but it’s probably not the best Christmas movie I’ve seen and I probably wouldn’t add it to my yearly Christmas film list. It’s not for everyone, especially those who shy away from naked old men, but if you enjoy quirky Christmas stories and/or foreign films give Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale a look!
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.