‘Death Is a Problem for the Living’ Sets Rome Premiere, Debuts Clips: ‘It’s About Love, Caring and Finding Someone to Share Your Shortcomings With’ (EXCLUSIVE)

“Death Is a Problem for the Living,” now also in Italy.

The Finnish black comedy, directed by Teemu Nikki of “Euthanizer” fame, will premiere at the Rome Film Festival in October.

“I am so proud of everything we have made together, especially ‘Euthanizer’ and [Venice Horizons Extra winner] ‘The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic,’ but this one is certainly the most consistent. And the most surprising, because you really don’t know what’s going to happen to these characters,” says Jani Pösö, who produces for Helsinki-based It’s Alive Films.

Co-produced by Andrea Romeo for Italy’s The Culture Business, and scored by Marco Biscarini, it will be distributed in Italy by I Wonder Pictures in the spring, with Scandinavian Film Distribution overseeing the Finnish release.

In the film – previously known as “The Player” – gambling addict Risto (Pekka Strang) and his kind neighbor Arto, who just found out he doesn’t actually have a brain (Jari Virman), join forces when the world casts them aside. Ridiculed and left by their wives, they become hearse drivers for hire. Luckily, or perhaps not-so-luckily, a secret Russian roulette ring desperately needs their services.

“Very often we do things that shouldn’t really work on screen. Here, people are laughing their heads off and then all of a sudden everyone goes very quiet’,” says Pösö, recalling some of the film’s darkest moments.

“Addiction is not funny, but everything around it can be hilarious. Teemu has been thinking about this topic for a while now. Then he sent me an article about this brainless guy, which is a true story, then another one about hearse drivers. We drove to a little town in the middle of Finland and bought a hearse of our own, which cost us around 1,000 Euros. What a bargain.”

Following the shoot, the hearse in question has been making frequent appearances all over Helsinki. Also at the Finnish Film Affair, where “Death” was shown to the industry insiders as the event’s opening film.

While staying close to their dark sense of humor, and absurd storylines, there were many reasons why the team wanted to talk about addiction, they say.

“Because it’s so common,” notes “Tom of Finland” star Pekka Strang.

“The addict doesn’t see his addiction in the same way people around him or her are able to see it. It’s a self-denying sickness.”

“It concerns so many of us, in one way or another,” adds Virman, also opening up about the film’s central ‘bromance’.

“It is love, in the sense that they both stay and don’t leave one another, I think. They face the truth about themselves and each other.”

The truth they discover is not always pretty. But as “brainless” Risto and “heartless” Arto hurtle towards a point of no return, they find solace in their friendship.

“They are worth saving. Otherwise, the audience wouldn’t care about what happens to them. I understand them and I have both of them in me,” says Nikki.

“We didn’t want to make fun of addiction, but we also wanted to show where it can lead you. And it’s not a nice place.”

“They are definitely not losers. We talked about their humanity and we talked about living with shame. Shame grows in the dark and dissolves in broad daylight. It’s a story about love, caring and about finding someone to share your shortcomings with,” agrees Strang.

Pösö, who has been collaborating with his “other wife” Nikki for years – most recently on Locarno premiere “Snot & Splash” – also underlines the importance of companionship.

“This is our sixth feature together and I believe we are becoming better filmmakers with every one of them. If we wouldn’t, that would mean we are idiots,” he says. “Death Is a Problem for the Living” is also a celebration of their regular cinematographer Jyrki Arnikari, who died last year.

“In a way, it feels like all this time we have been making one, extremely long movie. There are things that connect all of them. It’s hard to define our films sometimes, as we play with so many genres, so we call them ‘Nikki noirs’,” he laughs.

“One day, I guess we might try to make a really serious, really tragic drama. But you know what? It will probably end up as a black comedy too.”

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