The idea for Steam of Life came to us on a Friday evening in 2005, as we sat in the men’s side of a public sauna. A sauna is a place where Finnish men not only clean their bodies, but also clean their spirits. We were struck by the way gruff Finnish guys entered the sauna and immediately began sharing insights about their lives with each other, often in a deeply emotional way. It was a purifying experience for the listeners, as well. We wanted to capture that spiritual side of the sauna in this film.
Despite the fact that both women and men go to the sauna in Finland, we decided to focus on men only in this film. Men (especially Finnish men) are frequently portrayed as silent and even brusque. We think that’s not exactly accurate: Finnish men just need time and space to open up.
A sauna is the perfect place and atmosphere to dive deep into your own soul and deal with life issues. Steam of Life takes a fresh look at how men can confront their emotions and share things through dialogue. One of the reasons we wanted to make this film was to update the stereotypical image of modern Finnish men.
We people need each other. We need to share things. We need to have somebody listen to us. And listen carefully, without interrupting. This film does just that.
— Joonas Berghäll and Mika Hotakainen, directors