manwithoutapast_04

The Man Without a Past

We now return to our regular programming — Scandinavian film reviews. Look, what can I tell you? When something as amazing as Finland's The Man Without a Past comes along, one can't help but forsake the stars & stripes yet again.

It's the story of a droll Helsinki man (Markku Peltola) who loses his memory after being violently mugged. He begins anew, populating his life with a droll group of social outcasts living on the fringes of the city, and soon discovers love in the form of droll Salvation Army worker Irma (fantastic Kati Outinen). After a series of fascinatingly droll adventures, the mystery man eventually must choose whether to return to his equally droll (but much more comfy) former life.

Yeah, droll is the key word here — the whole freakin' movie is droll, droll, droll! But beautifully so. Never monotonous, always gentle and hopeful and genuinely happy. The work of filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki (his masterpiece The Match Factory Girl, which stars a young Outinen in the titular role, is one of the most gorgeously depressing films ever) has a distinctive deadpan style and rhythm that I dare you to resist. You want to giggle with glee at the simplest of character interactions — I honestly smiled so much my cheeks ached afterward. And the visuals — almost-too-harsh lighting, splotches of candy color plopped suddenly into dreary-ass settings — add to the pure, perfect whimsy of the piece.

A power-to-the-people socialist undercurrent, authentic wit in spades, and a weird lil' splash of fable-worthy magical realism make the experience nothing short of astonishing. This is one of the best films I've seen this year.

And boy is it droll.