Sunday, 23 August 2009

The Man Without a Past


Mies vailla menneisyyttä; Tragicomedy, Finland, 2002; D: Aki Kaurismäki, S: Markku Peltola, Kati Outinen, Juhani Niemelä, Kaija Pakarinen

Three hooligans beat up a man who, due to injuries, loses his memory. He is pronounced dead in a hospital, but he comes back to life and finds a place to stay at a kind, but poor family. After his wounds heal, he finds a job, an apartment and falls in love with Irma, who works in social welfare. When he intends to open an account, the bank gets robbed. The police discovers his identity, and among others that he is married. But after the divorce, he returns to Irma.

Nominated for an Oscar for best foreign language film, winner of the Grand Prix and best actress award (Kati Outinen) at Cannes, "The Man Without a Past" is an inspired minimalistic film with a calm stoicism. Aki Kaurismaki's direction is here more ironic than before and that's why he is even deliberately dilettante (the actors don't act but just say their lines in a relaxed manner and perform weird gestures) which is why the story turns out very funny: the hero stands up from bed in bandages and "corrects" his broken nose, and since he lost his memory he says this to a friend who asks him if he is an anti-alcoholic: "Well...as far as I know...no". Later on he gets an apartment from a guard and even here a twisted dialogue takes place: "When can I move in?" - "As soon as I turn my back". - "And where is the key?" - "And where do you see a lock here?". Such deliberately fake performances have charm precisely because they subtly ridicule all those fixated "high art" method actors since the messages and ideas of the screenplay are transported even this way. The love story between the hero without a name and Irma has chemistry while the dry humor comes swiftly (like when it is discovered that a broke bank was sold to North Korea), but the slow rhythm and unfocused story bother slightly, though the result is very accessible.

Grade:++

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