The Man Without a Past
4 out of 5 starsMies Vailla Menneisyyttä
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
who is he Stylish Finnish filmmaker Kaurismaki gets almost everything right with this quirky and enjoyable anti-monster movie. In the opening scene, we see a man (Peltola) violently mugged and left for dead. When he wakes up he hasn't a clue who he is, and without any identity he ends up living in an empty container at the Helsinki shipyards. Soon he's an integral part of the community, with a loyal group of friends, a steady job with the Salvation Army and even a girlfriend (Cannes best actress winner Outinen). Then he discovers he's rather good at welding. But to get a job he needs a bank account. And he can't get one of those without a name. But don't worry, fate lends a hand just when he needs it, in a very unpredictable way.

Kaurismaki films this story exactly like a 1930s monster movie soaked in 1950s colour. Every scene is carefully staged, simply designed and starkly lit. The cast is nearly wordless (mostly just sharp jabs of dialog), expressing everything beautifully with their faces, creating characters we quickly identify with and care about. Even the more nasty people have layers--some we see immediately, others that come out later. They're all remarkable people, and the script makes them into authentic, compelling people. And even though they are dirt poor, they have real dignity--generosity, true friendship. Meanwhile, the story pulls us forward very steadily, full of unexpected and often very funny twists and turns, as well as off-beat little scenes that add texture and rhythms (the music is absolutely fantastic!). This is a very simple story, but it builds beautifully to an endearing and witty romance. Like one of those achingly beautiful old horror flicks ... with a happy twist and no horror at all.

cert 12 themes, violence 28.Oct.02 lff

dir-scr Aki Kaurismaki
with Markku Peltola, Kati Outinen, Annikki Tahti, Juhani Niemela, Kaija Pakarinen, Sakari Kuosmanen, Esko Nikkari, Outi Maenpaa, Pertti Sveholm, Aino Seppo, Matti Wuori, Risto Korhonen
release UK 24.Jan.03; US 4.Apr.03
02/Finland 1h37

Who am I? Our hero (Peltola) has an encounter with a security guard (Kuosmanen) who's not as mean as he looks.

Grand Prix and Best Actress Outinen: Cannes 2002

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... who is he "***1/2 Bizarre, dark Finnish comedy about an amnesiac welder who ends up working for the Salvos and falling in love. One of the more interesting films currently on offer. The stilted acting/direction is deliberate!" --Gawain McLachlan, Filmnet, Melbourne 14.Mar.03
© 2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall