|Toivo, the hero of the Pizza Pasionata, in the hand of Kari Juusonen.|
A Handmade Other World
Kari Juusonen shows a photograph of a beautiful Jugend style apartment building in Helsinki. - I had to build a scale model of this, he says and shows the little building on the floor of his workroom. It looks exactly like the building in the picture. The scale model is for a documentary film directed by Veli Granö. It belongs to the film's imaginary and dream episodes: trips to Sirius. The handwork is nearly done. Next Juusonen is going to take the scale model to the shooting location in pieces.
Juusonen has spent weeks working on the scale model. His job is to make small objects look big and inanimate objects move. Miniature people and creatures, new realities or fantasy worlds are born, handmade with a personal touch. Kari Juusonen, 35, is a maker of animated films: animator, puppet maker, script writer and director. His first animated film Pizza Passionata, which was completed in 2001, is currently going around the world's film festivals. Kari Juusonen could also be called a craftsman, for doing puppet animation is largely measuring, experimenting with materials, building, planning the lighting, cutting and gluing.
There is Hope
The main character of Pizza Passionata is a puppet called Toivo (which is in Finland ordinary male name and means 'hope'). The doll is made on a metal skeleton, coated with wax and dressed, explains Juusonen and shows how Toivo's arms can be taken off and what the skeleton is like. Juusonen has use for the skills learned in his earlier professions as a metal smith and a set designer all the time when larger productions are done.
The live characters of doll animation need 12 frames per second but an animated film made with drawings requires 24 frames per second for the motion to look natural. Each inanimate object's motions are done by hand by moving the filmed object.
Juusonen says that when Pizza was shot, the work was physically hard. He moved around several kilometres without noticing.
- For each shot I had to walk at least 25 meters and we shot at least 250 frames that day, Juusonen explains his calculations of the work done during one day of shooting.
The scene showed a tram going in a suburb: each building had to be moved a little, the ones in the background a bit more, to make the movement look right in relation to the surroundings.
A scene that goes by in a split second in the film may require a long preparation. However, that shot may be essential for the plot and the atmosphere of the film.
Juusonen shows a photograph to demonstrate what kind of a lighting system was needed to make the lights of the village to reflect in the right way on the glasses of the man looking from the top of the mountain.
He takes a lot of pictures of the different work stages. By looking at the photos he can see directly what the scene looks like through the lens of the camera
- I'm such a beginner in this job that it's good for me to take part in all the work stages myself. That's how you probably learn most for the future, says Juusonen, who has graduated from the Helsinki University of Art and Design from the Department of Film Art. He has taken a Master's degree in directing animated films. He admits that the handwork connected to the sets and the puppets could be done by someone else, but it is also a matter of costs. Each person participating in the production needs to be paid.
He thinks that the attraction of animation is the possibility of making the characters and events just the way he wants.
Juusonen himself is a follower of Bressonian minimalism: the films have simplified sets and the characters make few gestures or stand still.
- In animation it is ok to see that the characters are dolls and not creatures that imitate reality too much. I'm not worried about the doll not moving in the picture. The dolls are, after all, just a heap of material, and each shot is only an individual picture of them. Only the combination of the shots, the plot of the story and the whole unity make them into a film in the viewer's mind, says Juusonen.
A Film for Adults
Pizza Passionata is a story of adults, and it could be described as a big passion drama of a small Finnish person living in a suburb.
Juusonen has observed the reactions and feelings of the audience towards his film among other places in France and Brazil.
- In Brazil the story seemed to amuse the audience. There they cannot probably imagine that such stiff and inhibited people exist, laughs Juusonen. In Pizza Passionata a man called Toivo, who lives in a dreary suburb, alone, dreaming and isolated, meets a woman from next door. They accidentally find out that they have a common hobby, table tennis. This leads the fumbling relationship between the two insecure people to warm up. At least there is passion in the game.
- The film has been welcomed surprisingly well everywhere, says Juusonen modestly and does not dare to plan his future as a maker of animated films. The script is ready, but when doing animation directed to adults, very good reasons and plans have to be given to the publisher before the production license is granted.
Pizza Passionata was given a price last year in the Cannes Film Festival in the short film category. The film has received awards and honourable mentions for example in the Rome Film Festival, in the Nordisk Panorama in Århus in Denmark, in Ottawa in Canada, In Ourense in Spain and in Covilha in Portugal.
TEXT: Tuija Lundelin
TRANSLATION: Kari Hietaniemi
PHOTOS: Tuija Lundelin