The ancient past. A legendary Finnish smith, desperate for the love of a woman, crafts the Sampo, a mystical engine believed to be the source of all happiness. It draws the woman, yes, but it draws more than that, notably the attention of an ancient Chinese demon who sees in the Sampo the potential to unleash a literal hell on earth. An epic clash settles nothing. The demon is confined but not destroyed, the smith slain with his love unrequited, and doomed to an endless cycle of reincarnations in search of his love while also defending his creation and the future of the world.
A gorgeously photographed picture, epic in more ways than one, AJ Annila’s Jade Warrior must have set some sort of land-speed record for establishing firsts. It is Annila’s first picture, begun while he was still in film school. It is the first ever Finnish martial arts film. It is the first film to feature one of Aki Kaurismaki’s regular leading men being hit in the face with a sledgehammer. And it is, without doubt, the first film to ever attempt the combination of Chinese legends and the wuxia aesthetic with the legendary world of Finland’s epic poem, the Kalevala, which was a strong source of inspiration for JRR Tolkien. Of course, all of those firsts would come to nothing if Annila didn’t have the skills to match his ambition, but happily the young director has talent to burn.
With a premise built around a legitimate linguistic quirk that seems to establish a link between Finnish and Chinese myth, Anilla has built a gorgeous arthouse wuxia, a film that leaps nimbly between points in time while weaving myth and magic into every frame. The imagery is stunning, the cast compelling, the handful of martial arts scenes impressive. It is both beautiful and tragic, a film that aims to bring the legendary past into the recognizable present. It succeeds.
“From Kai and Berg's hammer fight to Xintai and Pinyu's duels, there have never been more convincing fights by a non-Chinese director, apart from Quentin Tarantino's in Kill Bill” - Derek Elley, VARIETY
WINNER: Best Costume Design, Best Music, 2007 JUSSI AWARDS
Director: Antti-Jussi Annila
Screenplay: Antti-Jussi Annila
Cast: Tommi Eronen
Producers: Petri Jokiranta, Tero Kaukomaa, San Fu Maltha
2007 | 7 min