The hottest Finnish filmmaker since Aki Kaurismäki, 45-year-old Eija-Liisa Ahtila works another part of the alienation beat. Ahtila’s most characteristic subject is unhappy consciousness, usually female and frequently adolescent; her films, shot mainly on digital video, are shown as gallery or museum installations.
Ahtila calls these pieces, which range in length from 90 seconds to just under an hour, “human dramas”—a bland way of identifying their concern with failed relationships, dysfunctional families, and extravagantly troubled minds. Her most celebrated example, If 6 Was 9, is a blunt succession of pubescent girls talking about sex—one of them with the voice of a 38-year-old woman who claims to be passing for teen. Extracted from their art-world context, Ahtila’s films alternately suggest eccentric social documentaries and irrational TV soap operas. The longest pieces—Consolation Service and the case-study anthology Love Is a Treasure—complicate the angst with an element of deadpan Nordic supernaturalism. The latter features five psychotic women, all haunted by ghosts. In the former, a married couple decide to divorce and then conclude the festival announcement suggested by their marriage counselor by accidentally drowning (along with their guests) in a frozen lake.
Eija-Liisa Ahtila: Cinematic Works includes five subtitled films and comes with an accompanying booklet; the DVD is in the European PAL format.