A bizarre black-and-white film noir reworking of Shakespeare's 'Hamlet'. After the death of his father, young Hamlet inherits a seat on the board of a company controlled by his uncle that ... See full summary »
It's night on a Paris bridge. A girl leans over Seine River with tears in her eyes and a violent yearning to drown her sorrows. Out of nowhere someone takes an interest in her. He is Gabor,... See full summary »
Timeless love-triangle, story of innocence corrupted, of meek farmer's wife, Marja (Kati Outinen), made vain and restless, and lured to big city by oily villain, Shemeikka (André Wilms), gets silent film treatment, complete with intertitles and musical accompaniment (Anssi Tikanmaki). Melodramatic excesses of silent era are simultaneously faithfully recreated and mocked; heavily moral tale is simultaneously respected at face value and ironically undercut. The success or failure of this picture rests on images and images alone. And there's the rub: Can a film maker honestly take a step back in time?
Even though the general outlines of the story are in a sense a forgone conclusion, even though we expect an unbroken circle of downfall and redemption, the characters are sufficiently alive and independent, each scene is sufficiently open-ended and full of surprise, to keep us on edge, always wanting to find out what comes next. For instance, on first encounter, the villain's attempts to get the pretty young wife to run away with him are unsuccessful. Eve is not simply seduced into taking a bite of the apple; rather, the change comes from within. Only after the tempter departs, does his evil begin to slowly its magic work on her. For the first time she dons make-up and dresses, lolls around the house reading fashion magazines and smoking cigarettes, and neglects her husband and wifely duties. Unlike in films of old, in which the hapless maiden is coerced, this heroine willingly participates in her downfall.
And Kaurismäki is up to his usual absurdist antics, his usual tragicomic amalgam. The villain drives up in an old Corvette bearing the logo "Sierck" on its hood, a goofy reference to Douglas Sirk. In fixing the car, the farmer, Juha (Sakari Kuosmanen), takes a massive three-foot wrench to the engine, immediately yanks out the fan housing and other large parts, and finally walks away with a handful of pistons. This is just one of many references to Kaurismäki's other films, here to Reino's monkeying with Valto's heap in "Take Care of Your Scarf, Tatiana." Cinematographer Timo Salminen adds modernistic flourishes: the brothel scenes are shot in dramatic shadow and light, from oblique angles, in the style of film noire hyperbole. Brothel habitués assume supercilious Brechtian poses.
Somewhere between the 2nd and 3rd acts the pace falters, drags. One hungers for sound. By this time too much attention has focused on Marja at the expense of Juha, so that when he finally re-enters the limelight, rousing to action, it seems almost arbitrary, an artificial plot device, insufficiently prepared for and motivated. The ending comes swiftly, like the stroke of an axe, yet at the end, somehow, despite all the self-consciousness shenanigans, we are moved. The tale which has held Finns captive for decades, which has received three previous adaptations, beginning with Mauritz Stiller's "Johan" (1921), somehow takes us in too. Chalk it up to the glory of self-sacrifice for love.
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