Back Towards Light (Halonen, 2018): Finland

Reviewed by Matheus Clorado. Viewed at the SBIFF 2020.

Image result for back towards lightArto Halonen returns to the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, following the success of Murderous Trance. This year, the Finnish director, famous for his documentaries and their socially strong stance, iluminates the horrific world of human trafficking.

As his previous feature, Back Towards Light (originally titled Takaisin Valoon) is also based on real events. It recounts Marissa Jaakola’s survival after being held prisoner by her new employer in a foreign country.

Marissa herself is the narrator, and emotionally she carries the viewer through her worst nightmare. Reenactment scenes are presented as flashbacks, filled with sensorial elements such as colors, hand-held camera movements, and frame choices suggesting entrapment. Halonen is successful at creating a compelling atmosphere able to allow the audience to experience Marissa’s story as she tells it.

The colors play an important role in the film as each moment is remembered by our lead in different shades. Approached by Marissa, Halonen became part of her healing process. Attendee at this year’s festival, she shares that telling her story came from a more compassionate desire to alert others rather than for personal healing.

“But my soul, the deeper side of me, cannot be broken,” she shares wholeheartedly. A nearly out-of-body experience, Back Towards Light is an inspirational story of survival, recovery, and courage.

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