Review: The Wait
by Elena Lazic
- The new film by Finnish director Aku Louhimies is a feminist tale of desire that feels like a foregone conclusion
In his interview with Cineuropa conducted ahead of the production of The Wait, Finnish director Aku Louhimies stated, “The main character could easily be a man. Their gender is irrelevant – it’s the element of love that’s universal.” Yet the finished film, which tells the story of a torrid love triangle and which played in competition at this year’s Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, does not seem all that certain about whether societal gender roles do or do not have a hold over its characters, making for a sometimes confusing movie.
Inka Kallén plays Elli, a smiley but quiet woman living on an idyllic Finnish island in a big house with her husband (Aku Hirviniemi). The two enjoy a seemingly relaxed life together, one punctuated by mutually satisfying sex in scenes that Louhimies films as so many life-affirming, orgasmic experiences. In the way they contrast with Elli’s otherwise withdrawn attitude and the generally calm atmosphere that the couple evolve in during the day, these moments already hint at a certain move away from traditional, conservative conceptions of married life. The couple are almost completely isolated, and scenes showing Elli walking alone among the weeds or swimming naked in the sea suggest that she has found her peace in this unusual lifestyle.
But this isolation already suggests that this is a life that may not be able to survive when exposed to the rest of the world, and sure enough, the arrival of a third person will turn it all upside down. Before the old friend (Andrei Alén) of the couple even arrives, the mere announcement from the husband that he is coming sends Elli into a cleaning frenzy – so gender roles do exist on the Finnish island after all. When the friend does arrive, the husband (who turns out to be a preacher) is loud, unbothered and totally oblivious to the tension that immediately appears between his guest and his wife.
As the two hang out together, we learn that he is writing his thesis on women in the films of François Truffaut, that he is a womaniser who does not seem particularly anxious to settle down and, more importantly, that he and Elli used to be a thing. Louhimies draws out the sexual tension between the two a little too much, losing it almost completely in certain scenes, and relying perhaps a little too heavily on yet more sex scenes. Much is made of how Elli’s bedroom is right underneath that of the couple’s guest and of the latter hearing the orgasmic sounds of his friends, but Louhimies points these things out too frequently for them to carry much weight. The film is in fact rather predictable until the inevitable does happen: Elli and the friend sleep together, and her husband finds out.
From this moment on, however, the feature does venture into relatively more uncharted territory. Rather than hide what she has done, Elli sleeps with the family friend again, within earshot of her husband, then in the morning, asks him for forgiveness. She is a woman who knows what she wants and who she loves, which is wonderful to see. But the fact that we sort of already knew that before any of this happened is why The Wait is rather devoid of both sexual and dramatic tension.
The Wait was produced by Finland’s Backmann & Hoderoff.
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