Home Features The making of the shockingly brutal ‘Sisu’…..

The making of the shockingly brutal ‘Sisu’…..


“SISU is a Finnish word that cannot be translated. It means a white-knuckled form of courage and unimaginable determination. SISU manifests itself when all hope is lost.”

Producer Petri Jokiranta and writer, director Jalmari Helander first met 15 years ago. ‘He showed me several no-budget short films he had made, all them were action-packed stories inspired by 80’s films, such as Rambo and Die Hard’ Petri recalls. After collaborating together on their first two films – Rare Exports (2010) and Big Game (2014), both of which had a young lead, they decided it was time to start developing a film with an older audience in mind.

‘Jalmari wanted to go back to his childhood dream and make an 80s action film in Finland, a visually stunning survival story of one man, who just refuses to die,’ Jokiranta recalls. Even since watching Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo: First Blood, director Jalmari Helander had dreamed of making a Finnish action film. After another one of their productions halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the pair decided to develop a film that could be entirely shot in Finland with a local crew and Helander finally found the time to write the script he’d always dreamed of. In less than two months, the first draft of SISU had been written. ‘The idea behind the story is similar to Rambo: one gritty man against the unforgiving wilderness and an overpowering enemy,’ Helander explains. ‘SISU doesn’t take itself too seriously, but the tone is dark and violent.’ ‘Together we went through the script many times until Jalmari was happy. He visualised the treatment with drawings, which made it a beautiful illustrated short novel,’ Jokiranta explains.

Executive producers Mike Goodridge, Gregory Ouanhon and Antonio Salas, already on board their previous production, immediately joined them on SISU and the financing started to come together quickly.

‘I like revenge stories and the idea of one man against an army,’ Helander continues. ‘You’ll see some really inventive and weird methods used to survive – it’s very cool.’ AATAMI Having worked with Jorma Tommila previously in both Rare Exports and Big Game, when it came to casting the lead role of Aatami, Helander immediately called the actor when the film was still just an idea around a gold digger.

‘Jorma was definitely the only idea I ever had for casting, it was very easy in that sense,’ Helander recalls

After working in theatre for a few years, Tommila was excited to shoot a film again. ‘Jalmari sent me the script and I was immediately interested,’ Tommila explains. ‘The script was excellent, and it looked like it was going to be a lot of fun to make, especially with Jalmari. I recognized a certain relentlessness and stubbornness in Aatami which we both share too.’ After deliberating whether he would be able to undertake such a physical role, Tommila decided he was up for the challenge and started to train. Tommila’s preparation wasn’t only physical, as he explains further: ‘I studied gold-diggers and what their lives would have been like and how a person would have behaved in a situation where they are being attacked from every side. I also read into the history of Lapland, the emotional and spiritual side and tried to assimilate myself in that landscape and culture.’ Through his research, Tommila grew to understand more of his father’s past as well. ‘My father was in the war, so I had prior knowledge of what it was like through him, but my research helped me identify further with parts of his life.’ Working with Tommila was another great experience for Helander, as he recalls. ‘I have had so much fun working with Jorma again. His performance is incredible, every day was a highlight for me.’

The film was shot in Lapland, over autumn, a time which is unique for Lapland landscapes, as Jokiranta explains further. ‘The Lapland wilderness in Autumn is full of bright colours, which only lasts a few weeks and why we rarely see that part of Lapland on film. When you choose cinematic locations carefully, you don’t have to spend money on big sets to get great production value. The shoot was very challenging, with some locations in the wilderness having no access roads. Fortunately, the locals were always a great help.’ ‘When we finally scouted in Finland is was clear that this was going to be the place,’ Helander adds. One drawback to filming in Lapland, was the freezing cold weather and windy conditions which the cast had to adapt to quickly. ‘The climate conditions were so unpredictable,’ Tommila recalls. ‘There were times when we were so cold our bodies would stiffen, and the skin would chap.’ ‘Lapland is not made for filmmaking. It looks stunning on camera, but it is a harsh environment,’ Hennie continues. ‘When you see what comes up on camera and you see the visuals, you know it was absolutely worth it.’

‘Lapland is so cold, a lot colder than a Brit is used to being and for half the film I have my shirt off, so that was difficult,’ Doolan adds. ‘It really was trying conditions, but pain is temporary, and film is forever.’

related feature: behind the scenes of the Rambo trilogy 

related feature: real life James Bond’s discuss their incredible stories in the doc, ‘The Other Fellow’

Here’s the Sisu trailer….



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