I stumbled across these stories having caught an article on IMDB discussing the release of Joonas Neuvonen’s Lost Boys – a follow up to his previous documentary Reindeerspotting: Escape from Santaland which was released 11 years ago.
His first feature follows the exploits of Jani, a drug addict living in Rovaniemi in Finland, a place also known as the capital when it comes to Santa Claus. This candy-coated Santa mecca in the arctic circle suddenly had its dark underbelly exposed.
The film itself was hard to find but I eventually discovered it showing on the Culture Unplugged website and I got introduced to Jani and his exploits. The documentary style makes you feel like you are on his shoulder for the hour and twenty-odd minutes. It is an absorbing and exhausting experience. Jani is such a determined person that it borders on terrifying, perhaps not the best character trait to have if you are an addict living off social welfare.
You are taken through random stages of Jani’s journey in Rovaniemi and his desire to escape – where you hope his wish to escape is to help himself get better but this film isn’t about happy endings. It is as raw as it can get and the fact that we have a follow up in Lost Boys a decade later is a fascinating prospect.
Lost Boys does not hold back either; it is fair to say from the offset that this film is not for the faint hearted by any means. It is unflinching in its portrayal of drug abuse – including more scenes of injecting – and at times it even borders on the pornographic (both sexually and in its constant drug taking).
Lost Boys is unflinching in its portrayal of drug abuse – including more scenes of injecting – and at times it even borders on the pornographic (both sexually and in its constant drug taking).
That is perhaps what makes Joonas’ film pack such a punch. It is not going to gloss things up for you it goes straight in with the honest lifestyle of Jani and by the end of the piece you genuinely feel you have been sucked into this dark, seedy, and dirty underbelly of drug tourism in Bangkok and Cambodia needing a shower afterwards to wash off what you have experienced.
We learn from an early stage of Jani’s inevitable fate and what happens next is cut footage in a chaotic mix of chronological order – making it heady and confusing at times. Joonas puts himself at serious risk as he becomes detective to find out what happened to his old friend – it is perhaps these moments that the film really pick ups up its momentum and fascination.
The film is narrated throughout by Finnish actor Pekka Strang, well known for his movies such as Dogs Don’t Wear Pants and Tom of Finland. He guides us through the trauma, paranoia, and deceit leaving us truly haunted by it’s finale.
Film fans will get a strong Into The Void feel from Gasper Noe’s work and even slightly of Only God Forgives from Nicholas Winding Refn; but in those moments when you think of those comparisons you are quickly brought down to earth – this is real, it happened, and that is what makes this documentary so captivating.
Press Images provided by Brigitta Portier @ Alibi Communications