INTERVIEW: Jesse Haaja – Creator, Writer, Director and Producer of Finnish Superhero Film Rendel

Rendel is the first ever Finnish superhero film, a crowning achievement. It was previewed at the Cannes Film Festival with the following synopsis:

RÄMÖ (Kris Gummerus) is a good husband and loving father struggling with unemployment in the country crushed by the depression. As a last resort to safe his family from bankruptcy, he accepts a job in a criminal organization called VALA. The organization is led by merciless Mr. EROLA (Matti Onnismaa) and his son ROTIKKA (Rami Rusinen).

In his new job RÄMÖ makes a horrible mistake. As a result, Mr. EROLA orders RÄMÖ, his wife ANETTE (Minttu Tamski) and his daughter ENNI (Roosa-Maria Mäkinen) to be killed.

RÄMÖ is woken from his nightmare by a mysterious woman MARLA (Alina Tomnikov), who whispers him the words: every single member of VALA must die. RÄMÖ is no longer the man he used to be. He has become RENDEL and the only reason for his existence is the revenge.

But can a man blinded by the hatred and revenge still see the justice?

And if you’re still hungry to learn more, check out our interview with Creator, Writer, Director and Producer Jesse Haaja below:

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AP2HYC: Do you have an affinity for superheroes?

Haaja: I have always loved comics, cartoon and superheroes. They were something I was born with, especially Batman and Spider-Man. Spidey was something I lived for when I was a teen, but now.. Well.. Dark Night is my man. I think my soul was sold when I first saw Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns on early ’90s. Then came McFarlane’s Spawn. Those books really changed my way of seeing things.

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AP2HYC: Why have there been no other Finnish superhero films?

Haaja: I don’t  know! That’s is the same question I’ve been asking for years now. Finland is a cold, cold place with lot of thrilling storys to tell and we also have more than interesting mythology behind us.  I like to convince myself that I’m the only nutcase in this genre and I really hope that Rendel will be the beginning of something great in Finland.

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AP2HYC: So the character Rendel originates from a comic book released several years ago?

Haaja: I drew first sketches of Rendel back in primary school 16-17 years ago. After that I made two small books, but those never got published. Those were rubbish, what can you expect from a 15 year old kid :). But there was something about Rendel, about the whole concept of it – I kept drawing for few years but then it was forgotten, I mean entirely forgotten, buried.

AP2HYC: So this will be an origin story about the birth of the hero?

Haaja: This was something we tought a lot. I really wanted to make a movie about Rendel’s ”adventures”, but writers around me got me persuaded to do kind of a origin story. I just red the final script and I think that was the best way to go forward. People will see the birth, and it’s not the easiest birth – I promise you this.

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AP2HYC: What powers and abilities will Rendel have?

Haaja: Rendel is faster, stronger and he’s not afraid, he has no reason to be – thats sad when you think of it. When you have nothing to lose, nothing to fear – you can do great things. If Batman and Punisher would have a child – it would be Rendel. In some weird way I think Rendel is also like James Bond, just a bit better than it’s villains and he really needs to struggle his way trough to get the revenge – James Bond reality maybe? Eyh… 😉

AP2HYC: Can you talk about his costume?

Haaja: In my first drawings Rendel was wearing black and grey tights, like all superheroes did in that time. It was quite obvious that it wouldn’t work on a motion film – so we did some changes. We did our best to keep it practical and credible, so we decided to go with black leather and military fabrics. We have a pretty small budget so we had to find these pieces around the world. Modify, mix and match them in Finland to suit us. It took over 7 months to get it done. Rendel’s mask is designed and molded in Finland by Pauli Kangasniemi. My first vision of it was totally different, but Pauli nailed it at once! It’s incredible piece of art and it really gives Rendel the dark and gritty feeling he deserves.

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AP2HYC: Can you talk about Rendel as a character? Is he only driven by revenge?

Haaja: Blinded by hatred, driven by revenge – that is were the story begins. But like we all know, revenge is never simple.

AP2HYC: Is he adverse to killing or okay with it?

Haaja: Tricky question. Let’s just say that he kinda has has all the right in the world to do so, but it’s not the thing what drives him.

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AP2HYC: Do other superheroes exist in the world of the story or is he the first?

Haaja: Rendel is the only masked hero in our world. This world is something we created for him and there is no room for others… at least not yet. You could say, that he is at the top of the food chain.

AP2HYC: Are you taking inspiration from any particular superhero films?

Haaja: Of course I am. I’ve seen them all and I just keep getting back to them over and over again. Daredevil (the series), Watchmen, Dark Knight Trilogy, Blade, Hellboy… Those are the reasons why I started this, those are the films which made me think “I wanna do that”.

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AP2HYC: And who will Rendel be up against? Will there be a supervillain?

Haaja: We don’t have any traditional super villains, we have have twisted people/vilains with lot of power behind them. The VALA organization, lead by Mr. Erola (Matti Onnismaa) and his son Rotikka (Rami Rusinen) – nutcases.

AP2HYC: As this is a revenge story will it be more violent than most superhero pictures?

Haaja: I think so yes, I think if you mix Sin City with Dark Knight – you get what we are planning to do. We don’t want to do a splatter, but we want to make it realistic- You get hit, you bleed.

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AP2HYC: When do you plan to film?

Haaja: We start in late September 2015 and we should be ready before Christmas – I really hope that I’m  sitting with my family at the Christmas table.

AP2HYC: Will there be a lot of action and VFX?

Haaja: Only what is necessary – we are not doing VFX based film. I can’t imagine myself directing people in front of the green screen. We have great designer Onni Johansson who will provide us all the VFX we need, it’s magic – I don’t really understand that much about it. We also have some really nice practicals coming up, those are something I understand.

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AP2HYC: Can you tell us about the cast and crew?

Haaja: We have amazing cast and crew, just amazing! We have lot of rising stars in our cast like Alina Tomnikov (Marla), Rami Rusinen (Rotikka) and Kris Gummerus (Rendel).  Most experienced is definitely Matti Onnismaa who plays Mr. Erola, head of the VALA. Our crew is collected from the people I love and trust. There is not a single people i don’t trust 100%. This is the first motion picture we are doing with this crew, but I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else.

AP2HYC: To end on a light note, if Rendel were asked to join the Avengers, what would his response be?

Haaja: Is Black Widow single?

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Have you watched Rendel yet? If so, let us know what you thought of it in the comments section below or send us a Tweet!

About the author

Davidde Gelmini