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The Man Without a Past (2002)

Mies vailla menneisyyttä (original title)
M arrives in Helsinki only to be viciously attacked by thugs and pronounced dead by medics. He revives but with no memory of his past or his identity. He rebuilds his life from scratch, but the past inevitably catches up with him.


Aki Kaurismäki


Aki Kaurismäki
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 21 wins & 26 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Markku Peltola ... M
Kati Outinen ... Irma
Juhani Niemelä Juhani Niemelä ... Nieminen
Kaija Pakarinen ... Kaisa Nieminen
Sakari Kuosmanen ... Anttila
Annikki Tähti Annikki Tähti ... Manager of Flea Market
Anneli Sauli ... Bar Owner
Elina Salo ... Dock Clerk
Outi Mäenpää ... Bank Clerk
Esko Nikkari ... Bank Robber
Pertti Sveholm Pertti Sveholm ... Police Detective
Matti Wuori Matti Wuori ... Layer
Aino Seppo Aino Seppo ... Ex-wife
Janne Hyytiäinen ... Ovaskainen
Antti Reini ... Electrician


The second part of Aki Kaurismäki's "Finland" trilogy, the film follows a man who arrives in Helsinki and gets beaten up so severely he develops amnesia. Unable to remember his name or anything from his past life, he cannot get a job or an apartment, so he starts living on the outskirts of the city and slowly starts putting his life back on track. Written by Jussi Tarvainen <jussi_tarvainen_84@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Comedy | Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for some violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Chosen by "Telerama" (France) as one of the 10 best pictures of 2002 (#01, tied with "Hable con ella") See more »


The Helsinki railway station's extension roof is clearly visible at the opening scene, but it hadn't been build yet in 1996 (the year can be read from the newspaper). See more »


M: I went to the moon yesterday.
Irma: I see. How was it?
M: Peaceful.
Irma: Meet anyone?
M: Not really; it was a Sunday.
See more »


References Stolen Kisses (1968) See more »


Performed by Tapio Rautavaara
(Tapio Rautavaara)
Published by Sointu
(P) 1946 Sointu
See more »

User Reviews

Unique, astounding piece of Finnish cinema
10 October 2006 | by MaxBorg89See all my reviews

The Man Without a Past, the second installment in Aki Kaurismäki's "losers" trilogy (the first being 1996's Drifting Clouds), is, to date, the only Finnish film to have received a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nomination, and deservedly so. It's a wonderful, heartbreaking opus, and arguably Kaurismäki's finest movie.

At the story's center we find a nameless man (Markku Peltola), who arrives in Helsinki for unknown reasons. That same night, he's brutally assaulted by a group of punks. This incident makes him look dead, although we immediately learn he is alive, if completely amnesiac. With no idea of who he is or what he's supposed to do, he starts looking for a home and an employment. He manages to rent a "house" in the city outskirts (don't miss Sakari Kuosmanen as the landlord) and befriends Irma (Kati Outinen), a social worker who tries to help M (in lack of a better name, and given "X" is quite overused) as much as possible. It is this friendship, which slowly evolves into something deeper, that truly motivates the protagonist in his pursuit of a better life.

The Man Without a Past strikes us because, unlike other films involving amnesia, it makes us hope M won't recover his memory: what he experiences throughout the movie, the people he meets, that's what really matters. It's a little bit like a road movie (they never end with the characters reaching their destination), only this time the voyage involves the mind and the spirit. It's a similar voyage the director asks the audience to join, as he artfully explores human life and its chances of improvement.

Moving and reminiscent of Italian neorealism (De Sica, Rossellini, Visconti), The Man Without a Past is a flawless reflection on how happiness is to be found anywhere, no matter the circumstances.

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Finland | Germany | France



Release Date:

1 March 2002 (Finland) See more »

Also Known As:

The Man Without a Past See more »

Filming Locations:

Verkkosaari, Helsinki, Finland See more »


Box Office


FIM8,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$23,281, 6 April 2003

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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