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Iris has a dead-end job in a match-factory, lives with her dour and forbidding parents, and her social life is a disaster. But when she is made pregnant after a one-night stand by a man who thought she was a prostitute, she decides that enough is enough and plans her revenge... Written by
Michael Brooke <email@example.com>
Iris is a young Finnish girl whose life has no horizon. She works in a match factory and still lives at her parents'. She escapes by reading soppy love stories or by attending a dance. One night, she thinks she has found Prince Charming. But the latter reveals himself a scornful human being who has no consideration for her. Then, she is chased away by her parents and relies on her brother's generosity to put her up. But Iris didn't say her last word and she decides to prepare a plan to have a revenge on the ones who couldn't love her.
In the nineteenth Century, Andersen, a Danish writer wrote a tale entitled "the little match girl". Here, the film-maker Aki Kaurismäki kept certain elements of this tale to create in his own way, a sort of updated version. And it's a much more austere one so much that it virtually evokes Robert Bresson's cinema. This is how I perceive "the Match Factory Girl" (1990): a cross between a modernized version of Andersen's tale and Bresson's cinema for the straight-forward style and the intense austerity in which the story bathes.
Aki Kaurismäki seems to have understood that to give his movie a big dramatic intensity, ostentation and exaggeration were to be excluded. The amount? A grievous movie which hurts where everything in the cinema writing is reduced to simplicity, nearly stillness and despair. This, to better express the dreary world in which Iris is prisoner and the wrong hopes she comes up against. Barely camera movements (the movie nearly looks like a succession of paintings), sinister scenery, blue-green lighting, dumb or merciless characters blend themselves to create a universe impenetrable to happiness. To plunge more in this desolate world, Kaurismäki nearly shot a silent movie, only scattered by laconic and reduced in the extreme dialogs. But to tell the truth, dialogs are not the most important thing. Looks matter more and reveal best the characters' thoughts and feelings.
The director's sympathy towards Iris and making her put up at her brother's are the only pities he shows and his movie would be of a total blackness if there wasn't humor. A humor which acts in an ironic way: "I came to tell you goodbye...".
Overrall, this grave movie about the lack of love strikes right at the heart and its vision is rather difficult. If you are down in the dumps, save it for a better day. It's a short movie (hardly an hour) but Iris' pale and retiring countenance stays rooted for a long time in the spectator's brain. And Kati Outinen, impressive of fragility and sensitiveness is perfect in this role.
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