The Ceiling (2017)

*. There’s nothing wrong with using the word Kafkaesque to describe a world of urban, bureaucratic nightmare, but for me Kafka’s spirit has always signified something broader than this. The Ceiling, a short film out of Finland, seems to me to be one example.
*. A man’s wife has just left him. He now lives alone in a cottage, doing what his friend refers to as an “ungodly amount of reading.” Which may simply mean that he’s still reading books in 2017. As he gets up from his chair one day he notices that the ceiling has lowered quite a bit, causing him to bump his head.
*. It’s an absurd situation for which there is no explanation and which brings into question all our assumptions about how the world works. Is Olavi (the man) somehow responsible? Is he going crazy? He shows signs of paranoia. Or is it only paranoid to think so? If so, it may be catching, as his friend Tuomas, who comes to visit, seems at the end to have been infected with . . . something.
*. Like one of Kafka’s parables there is no simple allegorical reading of what such a story is about. Sure, without his wife Olavi’s life is about to get a lot smaller and less comfortable. We get it. But then the ceiling rises again, and Tuomas seems to be having problems.
*. Then there’s Tuomas’s little girl Pipsa. She’s so cute it hurts but I wonder if she’s also meant to have something demonic about her. She has the knowing smile of an imp.
*. As in “The Metamorphosis” the meaning seems to me to lie in the coda, as Tuomas has to call his wife to remind him where he lives. Yes, we are once again experiencing the sheer horror of men without women. On their own they are helpless worms, their nudity after a sauna only underlining their frightened vulnerability. Even Pipsa has more composure and confidence. Who is worse off, Olavi with his elevator of a ceiling (not a glass ceiling, but a real one)? Or Tuomas with his lost helplessness? At least at one point Olavi thinks he may be able to adjust to his new circumstances, make a go of it. We can’t feel so sure about Tuomas’s state of dependency.

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