‘It’s Like ‘My Neighbor Totoro’ Gone Wrong!’: Finnish Film ‘The Beast Friend’ Introduces a New Bedtime Story for Adults

The helmer and musician, who has just wrapped his first series, “A Strange Summer,” to be aired on YLE, is also in the late development stage of what will likely become his debut feature, “A Light That Never Goes Out,” about a prodigal flute player who moves back in with his parents after a failed suicide attempt, and, encouraged by a childhood friend, starts to make a whole different kind of music. The film will be produced by Ilona Tolmunen of Made.
Everything I felt back then I put into that story and then I just put it aside – it was too weird and too ambitious. But Julia, my producer, hasn’t forgotten about it,” says Parppei. “I wrote that a couple of years ago.
Despite its unusual setup, Parppei wants to keep the story intimate and melancholic, giving his protagonist a chance to finally confront her traumas.
“Putting my own feelings into the story became easier once there was this layer of magical realism,” he says, admitting that the film’s biggest star will be brought to life through a combination of CGI and puppetry.
She befriends it. Before, she hasn’t really been able to talk about all the difficult things that went on in her life, the abuse, but she starts sharing her secrets with this creature. “My character is horrified at first, trapped in that house all alone with a bear, but it just lies there, silently. There is this magical, warm feeling of a bedtime story about it, but then it turns into something different.”
It’s a comedy-drama about getting over a difficult time and a celebration of useless creativity. “They start by forgetting what music even is. I hope I will make it before ‘The Beast Friend,’ which is pretty elaborate,” he says.
She really gets close to that bear, which is magical and fascinating. In her life, things are falling apart, but she is safe in that mansion and then things start to fall apart inside of the mansion, too. “The nightmare edition.”” /> We used to joke that it’s ‘My Neighbor Totoro’ gone wrong,” he adds, mentioning 1988 Hayao Miyazaki’s classic. “These two, they form a genuine relationship.
Finland’s Tekele Productions, composed of Julia Elomäki, Miia Haavisto, Marja Pihlaja and Tia Talli, will present three new projects at the Finnish Film Affair this year. “Bad Women” will be shown in the Fiction in Progress section, Variety has learned, while Ulla Heikkilä’s “Viva la Vida” – about a Finnish expat family living in southern Spain – and “The Beast Friend” will make their way to Fiction in Development. The latter, described as a “bedtime story for adults,” and set to premiere in 2024, will see director Lauri-Matti Parppei exploring a rather unusual bond forming between a struggling artist and a massive bear.
Mia needs to keep herself safe, too, so she submits to the bear.” But I want my actors to interact with it too. We rarely see them. Still, as a child, you are always told to stare them right in the eyes and slowly walk backwards if you encounter them, or play dead. And whatever you do, just don’t run! It can’t be too realistic, because it is fantastical and it needs to stay that way. I chose a bear because they are perceived as mythical in so many countries, especially Finland. “I want to be able to touch it, to be next to it.
The film, says Parppei, will also explore the questions of sexuality and power imbalance in relationships, albeit with a horror twist.
But it’s about letting go of the trauma and whatever it is that makes us feel trapped. “All these things she hasn’t really thought about are finally coming to the surface. There is hope,” he says.
One night, she breaks her promise. But instead of Bluebeard’s murdered wives she comes across a huge animal. The deal seems to be clear: She needs to keep the house warm, and clean up the rooms, except for one. Mia, whose life is crumbling, gets hired as a personal assistant in an isolated mansion in the Finnish archipelago.

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