Nothing will quite prepare you for the awkwardness and pain you will have for these characters and for women overall after viewing Force of Habit.
Filmed by seven directors (Kirsikka Saari, Mila Tervo, Elli Toivoniemi, Jenni Toivoniemi, Reetta Aalto, Anna Paavilainen and Alli Haapasalo. We follow a multitude of characters through a variety of moments in their day. Witnessing a range of scenarios. From admitting to being sexually assaulted at a party, to try to go to bed after a party, to just trying to be an actress in a play. These characters depict a mixture of the use of invisible power towards women.
Our directors and editors have wisely chosen to interweave all the stories together instead of being episodes. By allowing this a large serious amount of tension to grow as we leave a character in a position that we would not want to be in. By utilising this simple but effective technique, we become hooked with the characters and their story. We don’t want to leave Emppu who is being overpowered and pressurised by her peers to commit to a rape scene. As an audience member we want to be there for her, stand with her, yet we can’t. Instead, we have to watch her figure out ways in which to navigate her situation. While simultaneously not affecting her career.
Or when Katja admits to being assaulted by their boss and her colleagues originally supporting her begin to turn, showing the worst in everyone. At every turn, we want to see their story right to the end. Yet we can’t as we are swept away to catch up with another character. Immediately, I have little doubt that any woman watching Force of Habit will pick up what is happening far quicker than any male would.
The strength in Force of Habit is that this doesn’t take you away from the picture. You are at the edge of your seat wanting to return to each story. It is marvellous editing here from Yva Fabricius, Anniina Kauttonen and Otto Heikola that they can find the right moments to cut away from and to bring us back into. Their techniques are a perfectly formed tense filled tapestry.
What makes the Force of Habit so effective is how small and innocuous each story happens. Two guys talk to a girl on a bus, should not lead to where it does (and so often), a girl trying to tell someone to go to sleep on the other bed shouldn’t go where it does. Yet in every one of these, you can see that the female is cautious of it. They do not want that interaction with the males because they already know it is coming. The characters can sense it. Even if at the time they cannot sense what is happening they have the fear that it is going to come sooner rather or later, if not by the person in front or with them, but the next.
It is soundly terrifying to think that this has to run through someone’s mind every day that they cannot just be free of worry. As a man, it is unimaginable to think of these situations. Force of Habit excels at putting the male gender on notice. It is hard to think of a film that so carefully and vividly captures all of these moments that males would not automatically give a second thought.
That is the best and worst thing about this film. These are moments and events that have happened to someone you know. To think how isolated each character is, afraid to speak up, but wanting to act. Some characters know they are powerless and like Katja (Seidi Haarla). When they do speak up, amazingly and heartbreakingly, a discussion is had by other women on rather something should be done about it. Commenting that the #MeToo movement has gone too far.
These women are alone even when they are on a romantic getaway with their love. When an incident happens to her and she reveals it to her partner. He can do nothing or thinks he can do nothing. So rage fills up within her. A variety of emotions fill up in all of our characters, allowing us to not feel the same emotion for each woman.
We are angry for Hilla (Krista Kosonen), the same that we are hopeful that Emppu (Julia Lappalainen) to get her way. We are devastated for Milja (Pinja Sanaksenaho) who is only meant to be taking the bus to school. Emmi’s (Suvi Blick) scenario has us terrified beyond belief. With Aleski (Johannes Holopainen) it feels as if he is the audience. Shocked and appalled as he is thrown into scenarios that he could not prepare for. Interestingly, they made him a male character, yet a wise one.
After Hilla has left the restaurant she is sitting on the stairs. Yet as men approach the other side merely to go up the staircase. She is worried about how she might be presenting herself, needlessly so. She should not be concerned about how her dress is a button up at the top. Yet she is, after her incident. It has made her hyper-aware of any male gaze other than her partners and it is just sad that she has to experience that.
Force of Habit has you checking over everyone with a fine-tooth comb. You doubt the intentions of every character who is not one of our leads. No matter the gender of the person. Culminating in the final shots that rack you with tension in a powerhouse of an ending. Wonderful work from our seven directors.
Without a shadow of a doubt, this is a film that should be watched. There is so much to unpack in its surprisingly short runtime that all you can do as an audience member is wince and feel for these characters. Force of Habit is a film that will resonate with everyone. Phenomenal.
For more coverage of Raindance 2020 please check out our reviews below:
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