10 Questions: Dome Karukoski
- What constitutes a perfect morning for you?
Because of my work, I travel between 150 and 200 days a year. Waking up at home with your loved ones is always wonderful. The perfect moment is when my 2.5-year-old son, who usually wakes up before me, sees that I open my eyes and then says to me: “Let’s wake up.” You know, he’s been waiting for me to wake up.
- What is the first film you remember seeing and what is the memory like?
In a cinema, it was the Finnish children’s film by Päivi Hartzell called The King Without a Heart (1982). I remember it being frightening, which is odd as my mother has told me that when I was really little and lived in Cyprus, I used to watch BBC’s Shakespeare plays. Macbeth and all. I guess the age of four or five was the age when you understand the drama and the tragic elements better.
- How did you end up working in the film industry?
By faith, willpower and accident. I always was interested in films, but the inspiration eventually came from my father, who was an actor. I knew I would want to do films, but I didn’t know what. I first applied to the best acting schools in Finland, but didn’t get in. Then I applied to the best film school in Finland (then UIAH, nowadays Aalto University). I also remember applying to a radio journalist school as my mom worked as a journalist, but also didn’t get in.
What happened was that the film school, which was probably the toughest of them all to get in, took me on the first try. After that it’s just been willpower, hard work from morning ‘til dawn and good luck and trusting my gut feelings. And there is one factor you have to add. Finding the right people. Very early on I found the right producers to help me. Aleksi Bardy was the first one to help me with features, and we now have a companionship of almost 15 years.
- Who inspires you and how?
I don’t really get inspired by that many other filmmakers. I would name Stanley Kubrick, Sergio Leone, Frederico Fellini, Charles Chaplin and other masters. But I really get inspired by writers and composers.
- What makes Finnish films special?
Their black humour. It’s so black, foreign people often don’t understand the funny parts. One of my most popular films, Lapland Odyssey, starts with five suicides. It’s a comedy.
- Which one of your works has been the most challenging and why?
I would say Tom of Finland is by far the most challenging one. First of all, it’s the production. We have shot the movie in five countries (Finland, Sweden, Germany, Spain and the US) and we have done post-production in five countries (Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Germany and the US). The amount of crew that we had is close to a Hollywood blockbuster. Just keeping your thoughts and vision together while flying, surviving jet lag and speaking three different languages within a minute is a challenge.
Then there is the big challenge: this is about a true human being that once lived and changed the world. Everyone has an opinion how the film should be made.
- If Finland was to be played by an actor or actress, who would it be and why?
I would name Vesa-Matti Loiri. His persona is so Finnish. He’s a humble, wonderful man who takes care of his friends. At the same time, he’s funny in a dry Finnish way in person, but then can act the boasting superman as he did with his Uuno film series.
So combining his honesty and being humble, he also has a tragic past, but has overcome difficulties and is strong because of that. That is Finland.
- Why did you decide to make a film about Tom of Finland?
Of course I fell in love with the artist’s personal history. But what was remarkable was everything he did. When he changed the world of so many men. He did it in a time when it was illegal. He fought the oppression, he didn’t bear shame. He was proud of his sexuality at a time where it could’ve put you in jail. An icon. It’s easy to fall in love with him.
So although he didn’t aim to be too political, we are continuing his mission of making the world a happier place. Where difference is accepted. Where we can enjoy our sexuality, not be embarrassed or ashamed about it.
- What kind of image do Finnish films spread about Finland internationally?
That you have to ask from a foreigner that watches a lot of Finnish films. I assume our old movies and masters draw a very melancholic picture, but the youth is different. There is a different energy in the country. We are more European, more universal, in our lives and also in our filmmaking. If that is a good thing… that I don’t know.
- How do you relax?
I’ve learned that silence doesn’t relax me. It gives me too much room to think. So I listen to a lot of history podcasts, for instance, while I’m running. It helps me get my blood going both in my brain and in my body. I feel wonderful afterwards. It’s actually quite relaxing to hear about the past of the humanity, but to move forward with your own feet.