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Words of mercy and murder

9.12.2017

posterMake Mine Criterion! presented recently the Finnish comedy Euthanizer (Armo­murhaaja) which was screened at a film festival in Saskatoon, North America. Here some additional comments from a local point of view.

This film was released in Finland theatrically a couple of weeks ago (Nov. 24) and I had an opportunity to see it. Euthanizer is a black comedy about an outcast car mechanic who puts out pets as a side-job.

In the main role we have Matti Onnismaa — who might be characterized as Finland’s Ciarán Hinds —, an actor known previously from remarkable supporting roles. Euthanizer is his first main role in a theatrical feature, written specifically for him. (A link to his interview in Finnish.)

The screenwriter/director Teemu Nikki became famous with, among others, short films and the TV series #Lovemilla a couple of years ago, an absurd comedy show about a teenage cafeteria employee and her friends in 3–5-minute episodes, followed by a full-length movie, Lovemilla, in 2015.

The film’s original title, Armomurhaaja, means literally ‘a murderer of mercy’ or, more accurately, ‘a mercy-murderer’. In English language I suppose one can speak of a “merciful killing”, but the combination of “mercy” and specifically “first-degree murder” may sound odd, an oxymoron. This is however how the Finnish language sees things.

There is currently a debate of legalizing euthanasia in Finland. Although medical euthanasia basically means an assisted suicide, the idea of murder is haunting in the background and affecting the discussions. Finns mostly use the Greek loan word euthanasia, but several dictionaries translate it as ‘armomurha’, that is, basically as a murder. (Etymologically, the words murder and murha may have a common Germanic root, *murþa, but this is not sure.)

Similarly the Finnish word for suicide, itsemurha, includes specifically “murder,” and it is a translated loan from the Swedish självmord and the German Selbstmord, that is, “self-murder”. In earlier times, suicides and attempts to killing oneself were considered crimes or at least shameful acts.

So, what’s the point? — Sometimes it is language that makes things look ugly.

From → Elokuva

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