Aki Kaurismäki - trade mark of Finnish film
Last year when I presented the program of contemporary Finnish film in Tuškanac, many people were wondering how it was possible that the program did not include at least one film by either of the Kaurismäki brothers. Indeed, at the mention of Finnish cinema their films are the first association to film lovers around the world.
Aki Kaurismäki was born fifty five years ago and, just like his older brother Mika, has been in love with film and literature from his early youth. After a few years of studying sociology at the University in Tampere, he held down several different jobs, from washing dishes to writing film critiques. A true film lover, he watched films wherever he could: in film theatres, film archives, different amateur film clubs and on TV. The wish to begin making films spurred the Kaurismäki brothers to start their own production house, named Villealfa in homage to Jean-Luc Godard. Their first films were made in the early 1980s when a new generation (that is middle aged today) of Finnish filmmakers appeared, such as Veikko Aaltonen, Matti Ijäsa, Janne Kuusi and others who started to view daily Finnish life from a new perspective.
In 1981, he made his first film with Mika - a documentary about the Finnish rock scene The Saimaa Gesture (Saimaa-ilmiö). Aki quickly showed real ambition with his next feature film project: a contemporary adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. In that film, in his own words, he tried to blend “several simple things”: “ascetics, B-film, Dostoyevsky’s psychology, a sequence of events in some unnamed town”. As viewers can confirm, these values became and remained Kaurismäki’s constant preoccupation. “Unnamed town” is, though, the often very recognizable Helsinki and its less portrayed parts such as the harbor or working class neighborhoods. His stories that do not take place in urban areas are made in unmistakably Finnish landscapes.
There are two more important poetic characteristics present in Aki’s films: a connection to Finnish film tradition and the strong social dimension of his films. While his earlier works often adapted themes from classic literature to contemporary Finland (for example Crime and Punishment, Hamlet Goes Business, Bohemian Life), his later films are more openly socially engaged. This is most apparent in his trilogy consisting of Drifting Clouds, The Man Without a Past and Lights in the Dusk.
The mixture of Nordic melancholy, subdued and often dark humor, a film lover’s sophisticated minimalism and honest empathy with his characters, made Aki Kaurismäki’s films universally understandable and beloved in art film theatres around the world. In spite of that fact, his films are rarely shown in our theaters, but rather at film festivals. This program in Tuškanac is a great opportunity for Croatian film audiences to get to know the films of one of the most peculiar authors in contemporary European cinema. (Boris Vidović, progmar’s selector)