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Steam Of Life

Steam Of Life

By Patrick Samuel • February 25th, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 4/5
Oktober Oy / Rode Orm Film AB

Original release: July 30th, 2010
Running time: 84 minutes

Country of origin: Finland
Original language: Finnish with English subtitles

Writers and directors: Joonas Berghäll, Mika Hotakainen

Cast: Timo Aalto, Pekka Ahonen, Aarne Aksila

Steam Of Life

Contrary to popular belief, men do enjoy talking and have sometimes even been known to share their feelings. There’s this common misconception about us that we’re either silent types or when it comes to talking about things that trouble us we can be vague; quickly deflecting questions and hastily changing the subject. Well, maybe it’s true in some cases, but not all. What might come as the real surprise though is learning that in Finland a group of men have chosen open up to their feelings in a steam room, and on camera.

Written and directed by Joonas Berghäll and Mika Hotakainen, Steam Of Life is a documentary film which brings us a frank and honest look at the lives of several men as the cleanse themselves physically, spiritually and mentally in the company of each other.

Berghäll and Hotakainen filmed with a dozen Finnish men from various backgrounds and of different ages. We see them sat in city centre saunas, homemade steam rooms and, at one point, even in a converted telephone box. As they shed their clothes and start to unwind, the joys, troubles and everything else in between in their lives starts to come off them and they confide in each other.

The stories we hear range from frustrations about their daily lives to more complex and deeply moving accounts, for example one man talks about the loss of one of his twin sons and the feelings he experiences whenever he sees another pair of twins. He breaks down for a moment and sheds tears. Surprisingly, during these moments of soul-baring, the men don’t try to comfort each other but instead they just listen and they give enough space for the words and feelings to come flooding out. There’s no patting on the back and no shoulder to cry on.

Steam Of Life

There are moments of humour too. One man talks about keeping a grizzly bear as a pet, and as they splash water onto hot coals and drink their beer I start to realise that perhaps I’ve been missing out on these opportunities to lay my troubles down, having never been to a steam room before! If I’ve ever thought about paying a visit to one before, it’s certainly not because I imagined it’s a great place to stop by for a chat about life and everything else in between.

Steam Of Life, as a documentary, isn’t one that’s for the bashful or those easily offended by the sight of naked male flesh. If you’re able to get past that it’s a film that reveals some fascinating insights when it comes to the male psyche. We’re not all heartless and unmovable creatures who think of nothing but sex every waking minute and we can be just as easily be affected by events in our lives as women are, and still be able to open up about it in the presence of others.

What keeps Steam Of Life from achieving its maximum emotional impact is that it feels a bit slow and sometimes even repetitive, but it’s still something I was happy to have seen. Although you won’t find any fast cutting techniques, soaring musical score or montages at the end to summarise it all, Berghäll and Hotakainen present us with a beautifully filmed documentary that captures some very intimate and entertaining moments in the lives of some ordinary, everyday men.

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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