Once upon a time a local video store was closing and had a liquidation sale. My parents purchased several VHS for just a few dollars. One of the movies was a Finnish film directed by Aki Kaurismaki entitled “The Man Without a Past.” The cover of the VHS had an accolade from director Jim Jarmusch, who, as far as I know, is stingy with these.
I watched “The Man Without a Past” and found the pacing, dialogue, lighting and music so foreign as to be exotic in a very low-key fashion. Also the story was provocative in its sincere yet humorous way. I liked that I couldn’t put my finger on what made this movie so unique. Not much happens as far as on-screen action, yet much happens in the emotional life of the protagonists. I use the plural because the movie is not only about the man without a past but also about the Salvation Army Officer who helps him. We accompany them as their lives become intertwined.
I was also touched by the humanity of the characters. Many people assist the man, particularly the family who takes him in without questions and shares everything they own. And the cafe waitress who silently spots him a breakfast when she can see he can’t pay for one. And the security guard who comes off as a tough guy but is really an empathetic and generous person. Likewise, the man without a past is generous with his time and limited resources. I get the impression that Aki believes in the commonly held theory that people with very little are often more generous than people with a lot.
The Man Without a Past movie trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgGvlyuJ628
jbm (originally posted 7/2016)
Further Info on Aki Kaurismaki:
Films in a nutshell:
Probably his most known movie is “Leningrad Cowboys Go America.”
Probably his most lauded movie is “Le Havre.”
I recommend the Proletariat Trilogy as a great introduction to Aki. It is made up of the following movies (currently streaming on Filmstruck):
– Shadows in Paradise
– The Match Factory Girl
Good info on Aki can be found at the Criterion Collection: https://www.criterion.com/explore/166-aki-kaurismaki
senses of cinema: http://sensesofcinema.com/2009/great-directors/aki-kaurismaki/
(His movies are hard to find but presently you can see several on Filmstruck).