Most of the five million people in Finland have their own sauna which plays a central role in their lives — especially for men. All you have to do is take off all your clothes, take a seat in the sweat house, and rid the body of the toxins that take away your energy and vitality.
Finnish men are known to have a hard time expressing their feelings and many of them struggle with the unrealistic ideal of a strong, independent, and solitary hero who never cries.
This riveting documentary by Joonas Berghall and Mika Hotakainen takes us inside a series of saunas in Finland where men gather to bare their bodies and their souls with one another. A young man ecstatically celebrates the wonder and the awe he experienced at the birth of his first child but the majority of men have been ravaged and savaged by life. They want to share their stories.
Among the walking wounded are a weeping husband who has gone through terrible custody battles, an engineer who can't forget a railway accident, a recovering alcoholic, two homeless men, an angry adult who recalls being regularly beaten as a boy, and several men who have lost close loved ones.
The filmmakers provide some needed moments of comic relief with scenes of saunas in used trailers, a phone booth, and underground mines. There is also a funny scene with a fellow whose closest companion is a bear.
Although the use of saunas by Finnish men does not have the deep and rich sacred meanings of the Native American sweatlodge, it does have some similarities to those places and rituals. People need a safe place where they can unload their pain, suffering, disappointments, and fears with others. The fortunate ones discover that growth and healing take place when the truth is told and experiences are shared. In Finland, as elsewhere, the spiritual practices of listening and being truly open to others are the best antidotes to the widespread sadness and loneliness of so many people.