Thursday, December 14, 2006

Honourable Mentions: The Book of Fate

This 2003 Finnish movie, directed by Tommi Lepola and Tero Molin and called Kohtalon Kirja in its native language, at first seems like it might be a full on vampire movie. Before this we begin with a little background on the Book of Fate itself. A book, it seems, from a mythical world in which the words written in it (with a special pen) can change the fates of men and the reality of the world. The book vanished to reappear on Earth.

The film begins properly in Transylvania in 1773. A coffin opens, and a man sits up, as do two more coffins. These are not vampires, however, but three brothers Sergei Konstantinov (Markku Partanen), Vladimir (Asko Sahlman) and the priest Viktor (Juha-Pekka Mikkola). The concept that they have hidden in coffins to either spend the night hidden in, or gain entry to, a vampire’s lair is interesting.

They are about to venture forth but Viktor has doubts, however his brothers need him for he is the only one who can read and they implore him to think of his sister, Tatjana (Johanna Kokko).

They venture around the narrow corridors and Vladimir finds a girl. He checks her neck but there are no bite marks and so he picks her up. We see, from Viktor’s point of view, the girl smile. Vampire attackHe realises but it is too late… she vamps out and plunges at Vladimir’s neck. These vampires are evidently messy eaters, if the blood sprayed across the nearby Viktor’s face is anything to go by. Viktor and Sergei run until they reach a window, pull the boards from it and stand in the protective sun. Sergei says that they must find the cross. It seems that the cross can heal Tatjana but even it will be powerless when the sun sets.

We Johanna Kokko as Tatjanacut to Tatjana who has bite marks upon her neck and struggles with the sunlight. She is being nursed when two strangers enter. Both wear crosses with a circle motif at the point where horizontal and vertical meet. They say to the old woman that they will take care of her, but the woman says that it is not too late and that Tatjana’s brothers search for the cross.

The brothers dohanging vampires find the cross, though it seems they have been stalked by the master vampire (Ilkka Niemi), who can take the form of green mist. As Sergei takes the cross, Viktor notice the book by it. In it are pictures of the cross and it is, we recognise, the Book of Fate. Suddenly a vampire hangs down by Sergei and he is pulled, with cross, into the rafters. Four female vampires bear down upon Viktor.

Itthe cross seems all is lost when a door opens, allowing sunlight in, and the two hunters appear. They ask where the cross is and Viktor points into the dark ceiling place. The female hunter uses a polished metal plate to reflect sunlight, finding the vampire and causing it to drop the cross to the floor. They then go on a staking frenzy, the vampires moving in a slight blur.

UnfortunatelyBig, bad vampire the main vampire appears. The male hunter sends Viktor and the female hunter to take the cross to the graveyard, where it must be placed to save Tatjana. Viktor is soon alone and in the corridor with the main vampire. The vampire has already shown us his telekinetic powers and he uses them to throw Viktor back. He crashes against a door and…

We cut to Arizonna in 1883 and Viktor is now a gunfighter. The film then goes through time. In each time segment he is there, the book is there and Tatjana is there. The two of them take on different roles, she might be his wife or his enemy, but their fates are intertwined. Always Viktor does something that causes him to fail in what he must do and, at that point, he sees himself as the priest. I will say that his name does change in each segment but I’ll call him Viktor to make things easy.

The film itself is not bad. Some of the effects look a little cheap but that said this was an ambitious project. Because they are so short, the segments can be a little low on exposition and therefore rely on being derivative of whatever genre they mimic. Unfortunately some of the action sequences are comical; one fight scene in a spy segment looks so choreographed it might as well have been a dance routine. However, the film makes up for these problems by having a quirky charm that shines all the way through.

The acting is not brilliant and yet, with such 2-dimensional characters to work with, could it be any other way. Kudos to Juha-Pekka Mikkola who did as best he could with a multitude of different genre roles – though I feel he worked best as the soldier fighting the Russians in 1939.

Ina happy vampire the segment we are interested in, the vampires are fairly derivative genre staples also. We know they can change into mist, that they cannot stand the sun, they can be staked. Bizarrely holy water seems to work, Viktor flicks some at a female vampire to hold her back and then rubs it as his neck – so she goes for the wrist - and yet the cross seems ineffective as a deterrent method.

Eventually, in a sci-fi segment, Viktor makes everything okay and we flip back through the book as it finishes the various stories positively. In the vampire section Viktor opens the door and catches the head vampire in sunlight. This destroys him and Viktor is able to put the cross in the graveyard and save Tatjana.

Interesting Finnish movie with a lot of charm that manages to overcome its failings, it may be; but the vampire segment was not long enough to warrant reviewing this film. Thus it gets this T_ttlg Honourable Mention.

The imdb page is here.

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