Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Happy-Go-Lucky Life on the Streets of Helsinki

The Man Without A Past

This is a Finnish film of 2002, about a man who is brutally mugged and so forgets everything about his past, who he is, everything, and then tries to make do amidst the down and out of Helsinki.  Despite the obvious plot devises, this is a subtle and hilarious film.

I placed this film in my top 100 last year partly because of the characterization and partly because of the personal connections to those struggling to make due in an urban context.  For some reason, there were two things I forgot.  First of all, it’s in color.  I don’t know why I thought it was in black and white, but there you have it.  Secondly, it is hilarious.  The humor is sly and quiet, and I’m sure much of the humor I didn’t get the first time around.  All this to say, I enjoyed this film even more this second viewing.

Technical—4/5—It’s fine.  Nothing special, no tricks, no fuss.  Just basic filmmaking.  Nothing more than necessary.

Interest—5/5—I really enjoyed it this time.  I was hesitating seeing it again because I thought it would be too dull for me to watch only about a year or so since I last watched it.  Oh, I was wrong.  It was great, every scene.  It was good to know the end this time as well because it helped me to recognize where it was all heading.  And this time, I could see the quiet joy in almost every scene.  Wonderful.

Tension—3/5—Not much tension, this time around, except when the muggers show up.  

Emotional—3/5—There is some emotion, but it’s hard to feel when the acting is so dry and flat.  It is flat on purpose, and it helps one appreciate even more the obvious happiness that is there.  But we have to put that in, the actors won’t help us a whit.  On the other hand, see what I say under “personal”.

Characters—4/5—Excellent.  Sure the acting is flat, but since everyone does it, it looks like Helsinki is just that way.  I suspect that they are playing it as a Finnish stereotype, but it just adds to the humor and the local color.  The characters themselves are wonderful and funny and clever.  I wish more had been done for Kati Oetenin, because she just seemed sad.  

Theme—3/5—It’s not a strong thematic film.  I’d guess the theme might be, “It will all work out” or “There is a place for everyone” or some other generally uplifting clichĂ©.

Ethics—5/5—I love films that show communities that work well, even in difficult circumstances.  Lars and the Real Girl and Notting Hill are among my favorites for just this quality. In TMWaP, the way they took our hero in and how he was instantly accepted, and the community helped him in quiet, small ways but that brought him life was wonderful to behold.  It is the ideal for my community as well, but that's getting toward...

Personal—5/5—I live and work amidst a community much like this.  Yes, there are struggles and not many resources, but there can also be joy and strength.  This personal connection is probably what really makes me emotional about this film. Not even so much because of these people, but because of the people I know on the streets of Portland and their joys and strengths.  It makes me happy.

This film is really a favorite of mine.  It gets better and more enjoyable with each viewing.  

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