Watching ‘The Rats‘, it’s almost impossible not to think about all those pagan superstitions focused on the theme of death. Not accidentally, director Juha Rosma has accessed in his short film a popular ancestral imaginary whose central figure is that of the walking dead. Wanting to depict a complex epic thread combining the premises of a fantastic storyline with those of a detective investigation, this terrifying cinematic experiment takes its spectators into a gloomy and cold universe, lacking in total light and optimism, iterating the narrative and visual principles of some fantastic novellas from romanticism or of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s literary works, plus the policier plot based on the archaic superstitions of Ismail Kadare’s novels. The final result is not just a fascinating incursion into the troubled soul of a community and of a protagonist unable to explain the aberrant mechanism of the reality he faces, but also an intelligent parable about the loss and regaining of identity, conditioned by the dysfunctional relationship between a father and his son.
In an isolated community, people are terrified of strange inexplicable events: the dead come out of their coffins and move. No one has directly witnessed this strange event, but the unanswered question is the following: is everything a farce orchestrated by the mind of a sick person who profanes the tranquillity of the corpses, or is there indeed a supernatural force that animates the dead bodies? Inspector H. must find an answer, but what seems to be at first sight a diabolical cat and mouse game turns out to be something else.
Intense, attractive and impressive, Juha Rosma’s short film has the merit of balancing in a complex cinematic product more disparate narrative formulas and strategies, managing to meet the exigencies of several audiences: this project is both a fantastic and a police story, a parable about the transgression of the soul in the universes beyond our perception, as well as an almost brutal panorama of the inner structures of a small community that leads to an emotional alteration endangering the inter-human relations. Not accidentally, the director avoids using many structural elements adjacent to the visual component, opting for a trenchant depicting of the crepuscular space that shelters strange events without using a soundtrack or some editing techniques defying the apparent conventionalism of a detective storyline. ‘The Rats’ is, therefore, an amazing, gloomy, attractive film that impresses not only with a cool chromaticity and an atmosphere inspired by the horror stories of European folklore but also with a multitude of interpretations which distinguishes it from many similar cinematographic projects of its genre.
For the intelligence through which the director homogenizes several narrative strategies, providing a complex and interpretable epic thread, for the heavy atmosphere that adopts the sensory principles of a story derived from European folklore, but also for the good dose of the inner drama of a character searching for his true identity, ‘The Rats’ was awarded with the Film of the Month distinction in the July 2018 edition of TMFF.