quirky film celebrated for its deadpan
humour, Aki Kaurismäkis The Man
Without A Past is a darkly intriguing
mystery of a man who has to build a new
life after he loses his memory...
THE MAN WITHOUT A PAST is a slightly off-beat film from Finland that
starts off with a mystery man (known as "M") who arrives by train
to Helsinki, falls asleep on a park bench and is viciously attacked by three
men, who steal his belongings and leave him for dead.
The second instalment of the 'Finland Trilogy' from Aki Kaurismäki (Drifting
Clouds, Lights In The Dark), the film was hugely successful on its theatrical
release and collected more than twenty awards at international film festivals
with a further twenty-one nominations including an Oscar in 2003.
Coming round from the mugging, M (Markku Peltola) staggers into a shopping mall
where he collapses. He is taken to hospital, where he becomes comatose and is
pronounced dead. Eventually he comes round and walks out of the hospital, only
to collapse again along a riverbank.
Two young brothers find him and their parents (Juhani Niemelä as the father
and Kaija Pakarinen as Kaisa Nieminen) care for him. But as he recovers he realises
that he cannot remember who he is, where he came from or what he was doing in
Helsinki. The Nieminen's are poor and live in a converted container on a site
owned by Anttilla (Sakari Kuosmanen), a terrific character whose bark is worse
than his bite and whose 'killer' dog Hannibal (Tähti) becomes attached to M.
All is not well in the Nieminen's household and it seems that the boys' father,
who works a couple of days as a night watchman, sometimes drinks money away
while Kaisa tries to save up for when they can move into their promised council
flat. M plants potatoes and shares them, but when he tries to find work he is
at a distinct advantage with no name or national insurance number.
Anttilla proves a tough businessman but is persuaded to allow M to move into
his own container, which M scrubs from top to bottom. His visits to the soup
kitchen run by the Salvation Army result in him meeting the gentle Irma (Kati
Outinen) and they begin to see each other regularly. Flashes of his past invade
his dreams with a factory by a road and a bright light, but still he cannot
remember even his name.
Having built a new life from scratch, M suddenly finds himself managing the
Salvation Army band and increasing its repertoire. Then a chance meeting with
a rather unusual bank robber changes that new life as he seeks to help others
and in doing so he finds himself much better off. But it also leads to a nationwide
appeal that catches the attention of his wife.
Is this the end of his relationship with Irma? How will M cope with knowing
who he is? But it is when he crosses the path of the men who mugged him that
he learns the value of the new life he has created for himself.
Described as an "honest and direct piece of cinema" The Man Without A Past
is quirky, incongruous and absurd. It is also full of genuine tenderness and
understanding of the human desire for independence and true love, set against
the bleak poverty of a broken Helsinki. Images of the night city with a couple
sleeping in a doorway and a homeless man are very poignant, and the budding
romance between M and Irma is touching and heart-felt.
The Man Without A Past delves into the lives of those who have been affected
by Finland's uncertain economy, placing a man who has lost his memory among
them to rebuild a future for himself. The film has menacing overtones but this
heart-warming and satisfying offering from Aki Kaurismäki is also infused with
The film also features: Annikki Tähti as Kirpputorin Johtajar; Telekan Konttoristi
as Elina Salo; Anneli Saili as Baarin Omistajatar; Outimäerpää as Pankkivirkailija;
and Tähti as Hannibal the dog. Pelastusarmijan Bandi (band): Marko Haavisto;
Jukka Teerisaari; Jyrki Telilä; Douni Saacia. The Man Without A Past
is Written, Directed and Produced by Aki Kaurismäki.
The Man Without A Past is released
on DVD on 21 September (2009) courtesy of ICA Films. RRP: £12.99 | Certificate:
"The Man Without A Past… has menacing overtones but this heart-warming
and satisfying offering from Aki Kaurismäki is also infused with deadpan humour"
Maggie Woods, MotorBar
"Gentle, charming and utterly unique" The Guardian
"It's impassive, impressive stuff from Kaurismäki, who creates a heart-warming
tale set against his nation's blighted economy" BBC Online
2003 Academy Awards: Nominated, Best Foreign Language | 2002 Cannes Film Festival:
Winner, Grand Prix, Aki Kaurismäki | 2002 Cannes Film Festival: Winner, Prize
Of The Ecumenical Jury, Aki Kaurismäki | 2002 Cannes Film Festival: Nominated,
Golden Palm, Aki Kaurismäki.
Aki Kaurismäki is one of Finland's most prolific filmmakers. Beginning his career
directing the critically acclaimed The Liar with his older brother Mika,
he went on to produce some of Finland's most famous international films, including
the outstanding Leningrad Cowboys Go To America.