Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Its been 3 days since I first saw this movie and I re-watched it last night. So much occurred within its run time that thoughts are still swirling in my head as to what it all means. I will say this, Sauna is a completely engaging film, one that spins a tale of mortal sin and a coming to face with past trangressions.
After war has subsided between Sweden and Russia in the 1500's, two brothers are tasked (along with a small expeditionary group) with drawing up the new borders between the rival countries. Erik is the more intense of the two, wearing the horrors of war, many of which he committed himself, openly on his sleeve. Quick to jump and act on impulse, its survival instincts first, ask questions later. Knut is much more reasonable and level headed, having benefited from being in school while war was being waged. At the onset of their journey, they make a brief stop at the farm of a man and his young daughter. After Erik learns and disapproves of their religious affiliation, things esclatate quickly and we see just how irrational he is. To protect the young girl, Knut locks her in the cellar.
The group heads out the next day and its not long before each member starts seeing things. Ghostly presences and images reflecting in the water but they continue on their way, waving them off as mere figments. They then come upon a sauna but not one that you or I typically think of: wooden enclosure, temperature regulated, etc. This is the 1500's afterall. What you have instead is a massive concrete structure with only one entrance and one exit. It shares a border with a swamp and has a small body of water that surrounds it. As each man stares at it, back at each other, and play an eye game of 'You go', 'No, you go', Erik sees roof tops jutting out from the top of the trees on the other side of the swamp.
Avoiding a looksee into the sauna, they make their way across the swamp and into a village. Coming upon a young boy, they instruct him to lead them to the head of the village. They find and speak with the man, telling them of their purpose and he agrees to let the expedition group stay. Erik sees value in the land as its undocumented on the maps and it would make a satisfactory border between the two countries as the swamp serves as a natural barrier.
The boy tends to the needs of our travelers and takes a particular interest in the two brothers. As they ask him and other members of the village about the sauna and why its there, and mums the word, the kid reveals that there is a barn that's locked up which contains some 'papers'. Figuring that it may reveal some history about this mysterious village and the purpose of the sauna, Erik and Knut enter and uncover notes kept by members of a former church on top of some interesting pieces of art depicting a cloaked figure.
After uncovering what had been previously hidden, a dark presence sweeps through, killing the head of the village and making its way through the other inhabitants, including some of our expeditionary crew. Its revealed that the people who had settled there found it completely deserted with only empty robes laid about. As the practice is supposed to go, the sauna is used to wash away sins and the inequities of all who enter. As things unravel further and people continue to disappear one by one, the power of the sauna draws Knut in and he becomes the main vehicle for atonement, making a cold hearted and war ravaged sibling pay for his wrongdoings.
Along with Martyrs, this is one of the most contemplative horror movies I've ever seen. The engrossing nature of the film will weigh on you for a few days (if you've ever thought about life consequences or have any sort of karmic leanings, that is). It's also worth mentioning that the atmosphere and cinematography were both amazing and were effective in creating both a sense of dread and a feeling of absolutely no way out for our onscreen characters.
What did you think of it?
Cortez the Killer