A Thing of Value

A Brief Commentary & Review of the film
by Klaus Härö,“One Last Deal”

by John Bennison, Mountain Shadow Director

“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” – Warren Buffett

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The popular PBS program Antique Road Show has had a long run of nearly 30 years, so far. It’s popularity is likely due to an appealing, if not predictable, formula. Someone brings Great Aunt Nellie’s family artifact in to a travelling troupe of experts who appraise the item in front of the camera; providing a bit of education, and concluding with a dollar estimate of what the prized possession would likely bring at auction. The owner’s reaction of pleasant surprise is always the same.

But the viewer is always left with the question that’s never answered: Are you gonna sell the damn thing and cash in, or not?!”

Bargain hunters from yard sale junkies to sophisticated art dealers aren’t as lucky. They have to rely on their wits, knowledge and a good bit of luck to find that diamond in the rough. Such is the case with Olavi Launio, an aging Finnish art dealer with a shop full of paintings he can’t sell. He lives alone, eats his meals in self-imposed solitary confinement, and spends most of his days waiting for the tinkling of the front door ringer to his gallery to break the silence.

But then an old friend cajoles him one day to check out an estate sale, where he is drawn to a painting that the auction house has labeled, “Portrait of a man by an unknown artist.” Is it a worthless fake, or a thing of value? And so begins a quiet mystery to be solved, with fragmentary clues dropped along the way like breadcrumbs, in Klaus Härö’s film “One Last Deal.”

Olavi won’t undertake his adventure alone, however. In a standard plotline he’ll reluctantly accept the help of a sidekick, Otto. Otto is the rebellious teenage son of his estranged daughter, whose delinquent mischief requires him to complete a job training internship, and Olavi is his only option.

Initial research for which he’s tempted to cash in everything he has for one successful last deal indicates it’s simply a portrait of some Russian monk or peasant. Minor spoiler alert: In fact it turns out to be a work depicting the Christ figure. So it is more than a little ironic to note that the historical Jesus figure was indeed of Galilean peasant stock.

The viewer can likely predict the kinds of twists and turns the storyline will take. The aged mentor will tutor the student, as the youth challenges the conventional ways of the world. At an art exhibition, Olavi will point to a painting of an old man and child, with a comment that is as much a premonition as an observation, “One has his life ahead of him, the other behind him.” But the duo will use their cunning and craft to discover sufficient evidence to risk everything; only to face the sinister shenanigans of the unscrupulous auction house.

But in the end, the true treasure to be found in the adventure will not lie in the dollar value of an artifact to be bartered and sold to the highest bidder. For the value of anything is only worth the price someone is willing to pay.

Spoiler alert!

And Olavi will discover the true value to his life will be found in a much more costly restitution paid, for the restoration of his relationship those who will become inheritors of his subsequent fortune. jb