Aki Kaurismäki – Varjoja paratiisissa aka Shadows In Paradise (1986)


Shadows in Paradise (Finnish: Varjoja paratiisissa) is a 1986 Finnish art house comedy-drama film written and directed by Aki Kaurismäki. The film stars Kati Outinen as Ilona and Matti Pellonpää as Nikander. Ilona is a supermarket check-out clerk who meets Nikander, a lonely garbage man, and they develop romantic feelings towards each other. Both of them are extremely shy so this hinders fast development of their relationship.

Shadows in Paradise was awarded the Best Film award at the 1987 Jussi Awards.

This is the first film in Kaurismäki’s Proletariat Trilogy (Shadows in Paradise, Ariel, and The Match Factory Girl). Continue reading

Rauni Mollberg – Maa on syntinen laulu AKA The Earth is a Sinful Song (1973)


“The Earth Is a Sinful Song” is the somewhat misleadingly lyrical title of this film. It is based on a novel set in Finnish Lapland in 1947-48 and concerns itself, in unusually intimate detail, with the lives of the inhabitants of a small, rustic community, and with particular emphasis on one family—an old man, his unhappy son, haggard daughter-in-law and teen-age granddaughter.

One is tempted to call these lives harsh and brutal. But that would be an urban judgment, passed upon people who exist so close to nature that the appearance of an automobile about midway through the film jars a viewer. No, these lives are simply different, stripped almost bare of what we like to call the amenities of civilization. They have no luxuries. Hardship is omnipresent. Death comes among them frequently, taking people and animals. Pleasures are simple—an outdoor dance (where a drifter is killed); drink; religion; the sauna; and sex, indulged in and depicted with a minimum of fuss.

The seasons pass. Lives change. People grow up, grow older, die, are killed, are born. The cycle is ancient and eternal; the landscape is literal paradise and figurative hell. — (The New York Times). Continue reading

Aki Kaurismäki – Tulitikkutehtaan tyttö aka The Match Factory Girl (1990)


Iiris leads a bleak existence. She has a dead end job working on the assembly line at a match factory. What meager wages she earns all goes toward supporting her mother and stepfather, with who she lives in a small, crowded house. They largely ignore her unless she does something against their sensibilities, which leads to them exacting emotional and physical abuse toward her. And Iiris is also ignored socially, because of her overall somber demeanor and the fact that she has no money to make herself look more attractive to men. She believes her life will change with her chance meeting with well-off businessman, Aarne. However, what she believes is the start of a possible relationship with Aarne was solely a one-night stand for him, he who has no intention of ever seeing her again. The aftermath of this encounter with Aarne leads to Iiris making some decisions of how she will deal with her bleak life. Continue reading

Aki Kaurismäki – Ariel (1988)


From Eye For Film:
Aki Kaurismäki’s first feature, Crime And Punishment (1983), updated and transplanted Dostoyevsky’s novel to present day Finland. Since then, the deadpan auteur has written, directed and edited some 20 films, which is about a fifth of Finland’s cinematic output since the Eighties. His films, however, have always proven more popular abroad than at home. Apart from Britain, few nations like to see their own follies, iniquities and all-round miserabilism being paraded in affectionately mocking entertainments, and Kaurismäki’s focus is very much on the dark absurdities of his motherland’s down-and-outs, drunks and dispossessed. Continue reading

Aki Kaurismäki – Rikos ja rangaistus aka Crime and Punishment (1983)


Kaurismäki’s first feature follows the descent into crime of Rahikainen, a slaughterhouse worker and former lawstudent, who murders a businessman and then begins a tense game of cat and mouse with the police.

Effectively updating Dostoevsky’s great novel to 1980s Helsinki, this remarkably assured debut offers a sharp critique of Finnish society. In 1984, it received two Jussi Awards: for the best début film and for the best script. Continue reading

Aki Kaurismäki – Laitakaupungin Valot AKA Lights in the Dusk (2006)


synopsis – AMG:

A lonely night watchman finds love but comes to regret it in this offbeat comedy from Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki. Koiskinen (Janne Hyytiainen) works as a security guard at a shopping mall in Helsinki, where he keeps an eye on the place after hours. Koiskinen is a quiet nebbish who doesn’t have much luck with women, and the closest thing he has to a girlfriend is Aila (Maria Heiskanen), a woman who runs a sausage cart Koiskinen frequents after work, though he doesn’t realize she carries a torch for him. Koiskinen is killing time in a shabby café when he meets Mirja (Maria Jarvenhelmi), a beautiful blonde who appears to be interested in him. Koiskinen is immediately smitten and is willing to marry her even before they have their first date, but what he doesn’t know is Mirja’s interest in him is not sincere — she’s working with Lindholm (Ilkka Koivula), a career criminal who has hired her to get some security codes from Koiskinen so they can stage a heist at the mall where he works. However, even after Koiskinen is betrayed by Mirja and becomes the leading suspect in the robbery, he still loves her and can’t bring himself to tell the police what he’s learned about her. Laitakaupungin Valot (aka Lights In The Dusk) received its world premier at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. Continue reading

Klaus Härö – Äideistä parhain AKA Mother of Mine (2005)


The film highlights a significant event in Finnish history — that during WWII, around 70,000 Finnish children were sent to Sweden among other countries to be temporarily hosted as their real parents stayed in Finland to continue in the war. The story is made accessible and immediate by taking us through the experiences of one child — Eero (Topi Majaniemi) — who as a 9-year old boy is dealing with language differences, a desire to return home, and a host family that can provide materially, but maybe not in the non-material ways that Eero really needs.
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