Monday, October 17, 2011

Steam of Life

Over a year ago, my first real and still one of my best blog entries, was inspired by the movie Steam of Life. I had not seen this movie at the time, and only knew the fascinating trailer. It is about men opening up their minds and souls, and revealing deep emotional experiences. Not your everyday movie. Did it live to the expectations? It did and more than that.

Readers who do not know this blog, or the movie, I invite to read the blog I wrote in August 2010, where you can also watch the trailer. Steam of Life, or Miesten Vuoro in Finnish, was not in Dutch movie theatres at the time, and it did not arrive there either for months. Ultimately I ordered an English subtitled edition at, and it was shipped to me from the USA. And as was to be expected, just a few weeks later it made its appearance in Dutch cinemas.

The trailer did the movie justice. The emotional and touching stories told by ordinary Finnish men, who are no actors, at times cut through the soul, and sometimes make you smile. The captivating scenes are separated by hypnotizing shots of Finland’s nature and scenery, supported by a dreamlike musical score. It is not often that a minimal movie like this can carry you away with so little.

It makes one think. Would I have the courage to bare myself like that for a movie camera? I’m not talking about the physical bareness alone here, but even more so about the emotional nakedness these Finnish men are not afraid to show. That takes guts. For me, a sauna can be a kind of reassuring, comforting and secluded environment where you are anonymous, and nobody takes notice of you. Circumstances that create the perfect conditions for conversations with my nephew. Nobody hears, nobody listens. And if people can listen, we simply move to a different cabin or to a quite place near the bar. So, what I look for, or actually, what we look for, is an experience at the other end of the spectrum of what the people in Miesten Vuoro portray. Still, it would be interesting if our experiences could be documented one way or another to remember them later. Maybe I see use for the GoPro I’ve set my mind on here? Ah, better not. I’m pretty sure my younger companion would not want to be caught on camera like that at all, so there will be no movie career for him when a Dutch version of Steam of Life would be filmed. I vividly remember his terror when he spotted his employer’s wife, and two hands were barely enough for him to cover his face and various body parts. As was to be expected, it was not his boss’ wife at all – but it took at least 30 minutes for him to establish that relieving fact.

So, was I a role model here? Likely, but it helped me too, it educated me to open up emotionally in interaction with a younger generation. And young people can be so inspiring. But there is something else in respect to this. Men have made an impressive emotional turnaround during a few decades, I’m sure of that. It’s funny that the blogger who inspired me to do my own blog, and who is so open about his emotions and life, is male. While the female blogger who dared me to create my blog hardly lets you into her mind and inner thoughts… But the strong men of yore, the Marlboro men, providers of income, always at the wheel of the family, as if they are driving the family car, and not showing emotions, have changed. We speak out our feelings, are not ashamed to push the baby stroller, we cry, we are a kid and a man combined in one body, and we are not ashamed of it. But to do so for a camera? Let me think about that.

Naked investment in life


  1. That's why it is special enough to make a movie out of it, I suppose.

  2. I'm flying to Michigan next week to make the cross country drive with my 33 year old son. We have not spent that much time together in a very long time. Maybe his 8 months in Finland this year will give us some good conversation.

  3. Great oppertunity to catch up, and have some good time with each other, John!

  4. It's interesting to come across this now, Martin, as I've been making a list of things to write about in my new blog. One of them is about the true definition of a man, and how that is so different of 30 years ago. I've been in male-only discussion/support groups, as well as for both sexes, and have found them very liberating during times when what I had on my mind couldn't be shared elsewhere. I'd like to find another one again someday but on camera? I think not, but would be interested in seeing this movie if I can find it. And more interested to see my dad's reaction as his generation doesn't talk about feelings or problems.

  5. One of my US Flickr contacts started looking for this film after he read this blog. Amazon offers it, but only as a region 2 movie (Europe). He ordered it nonetheless, since he has software that removes the region code when copying. PBS aired it last August, but that won't help you now, unless it is scheduling a replay.

    I do think the older generation may have a different attitude. You can see that in this movie too, the younger men - well, the 40 year old or so, are far more open as the older men that we see. Having said, we see the choices and the cuts made by the director of course.