'Theo's House': Film Review

Courtesy of Bad Taste Ltd & Butterworks
Weakly constructed

Rax Rinnekangas' Finnish drama concerns an architect suffering a midlife crisis

That its central characters are named Vincent and Theo is but one of the many pretentious aspects of Rax Rinnekangas' lugubrious, artsy drama about an architect experiencing a midlife crisis having to do with both his work and his personal life. Although this Finnish film is occasionally haunting thanks to its beautifully composed visuals and evocative mood setting, Theo's House is not dramatically sturdy enough to stand up to close inspection.

The unfortunate defining moment in Theo's (Hannu-Pekka Bjorkman) professional career occurred in 1983 when, along with his business partner Vincent (Ville Virtanen), he designed a series of blandly monolithic concrete structures in a seaside town that replaced 320 charming wooden houses. Although they were highly utilitarian and certainly provided much-needed housing, Theo can't quite forgive himself for this aesthetic lapse.

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The story primarily takes place 10 years later when Theo, after the dissolution of his marriage, retreats to a castle in East Germany where he is seemingly the only guest during its offseason. Pondering the failures of his life while wandering mournfully through its picturesque grounds, he devises a plan for self-redemption via plans to build a dream house for himself. Well, not just for himself; he hopes to live there with Clara (Milka Ahlroth), his apparent dream woman with whom he had a single brief encounter when they were both children.

Midway through the proceedings he's visited by his former partner, with the two engaging in a lengthy debate about modern architecture in which the still-practicing Theo rationalizes their past actions by placing them in the context of the times.

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Static and plodding, the film veers dangerously close to self-parodic territory with a series of scenes in which Theo's self-doubts are illustrated by English language songs featuring lyrics that all too explicitly describe exactly what he's thinking.

While the evocative visuals and Bjorkman's intense performance provide some compensation,Theo's House ultimately emerges as the sort of self-serious exercise that is apparently much more gratifying for its filmmaker than viewers likely to be bored to tears.

Production: Bad Taste Ltd., Butterworks
Cast: Hannu-Pekka Bjorkman, Ville Virtanen, Milka Ahlroth, Boris Konezcny
Director/screenwriter: Rax Rinnekangas
Producer: Tiina Butter
Director of photography: Pekka Uotila
Editor: Jari Innanen
Composer: Pascal Gaigne

No rating, 108 minutes

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