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Berlinale 2008: "Black Ice" (Kotwica, Finland)

Sometimes it is only the actor who can escape the clutches of a resounding bad—or in this case, mediocre—feature.
Black Ice

Above: Outi Mäenpää looks with worry at the young woman sleeping with her husband, played by Ria Kataja.

Sometimes it is only the actor who can escape the clutches of a resounding bad—or in this case, mediocre—feature. Ria Kataja in the Finnish film Black Ice is a particularly noteworthy example, as this is no showboating performance that so-called "chews up the scenery" and embarrasses a film that cannot keep up with an actorly flurry of Method and energy.

Instead, Kataja in a modest and professional turn, just does her job well, exceedingly well. She inhabits her late-twenties character with a lived-in ease that makes the woman's moments of pleasure, of drunkenness, and, most pointedly, of distress, something wholesome in itself. This is not wholesome in the traditional sense, but rather that Kataja's acting crafts the character in a rounded way, as if one could step around her and nod in approval that indeed, this girl exists fully and lives truly.

This remarkable, but by no means grandstanding accomplishment bypasses Black Ice's increasingly absurd melodrama and cuts straight to a fluid, emotional, and naturally faceted portrayal. She brings to an otherwise unassuming character such a low-key—but utterly vital—sense of believability as to continually, unconsciously convince one to the obvious contrary—that this in fact may be a serious film and a serious consideration of adult relationships.

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