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Unique, astounding piece of Finnish cinema
MaxBorg8910 October 2006
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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A weird, but astonishing and silently funny film
a285928930 January 2003
Whoever has seen any of Aki Kaurismäki's films might agree that they are all but mainstream. Nevertheless, the story itself doesn't have to be too complicated. In this case, a man completely loses his past in a shockingly violent way, and he rediscovers life again in an environment of bums who sleep in containers. The good thing I found about this movie was: No romanticism of misery, no enlightenment of the tortured hero, no sob-stuff love story, no superfluous, aloof intellectualism at all. At least not in an obtrusive or overly serious way. But in a way that it sometimes shocked me , sometimes made me laugh, sometimes grin. I was never bored. And as I made it to Finland for the first time in my life a few weeks after seeing this movie - I found everything to be amazingly authentic.

A remarkable film that definitely moves into my shrine of the best 50!
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A stunning work of art.
meejoir27 November 2002
I am not familiar at all with the work of this director at all so I was unsure what to expect from this movie when seeing it as part of the Regus London Film Festival on tour.

I needn't have worried. This film is very touching and in many places laugh out loud funny. The scene where the dog is introduced is just side-splitting.

The humour is so dry and it is very hard to compare this film with many other films, but for some reason it reminded me a little of Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Delicatessen, especially some of the colours in the set design.

I understand this film is the second part of a trilogy? I simply have to see more stuff from this guy, I feel like I have missed out in a big, big way!

If you get the chance, don't hesitate to see this film, it is simply a work of art. I for one will be going to see it again when it goes on general release next year.
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Reducing the world into a man, a woman, a dog and trains
JuguAbraham27 January 2004
This movie is deceptive--a casual viewing could discard it as another "feel good" film from Europe.

It permeates Christian values without sermons, priests, or any religious hard sell (a small poster of Christ in a booth of the Salvation Army is an exception). Philosophically, it presents Tabula Rasa or a clean slate to begin life anew. The film tends to be absurdist (not even a moan emanates from brutalized victims of violence, broken noses are twisted back painlessly, victims of violence emerge from shadows to mete out justice). The film recalls shades of the brilliance of Tomas Alea's early Cuban films and the humanity of Zoltan Fabri's Hungarian cinema.

The film presents entertainment of a kind that would be alien to Hollywood--a cinematic essay on human values that seem to be a rare commodity the world over. There is no sex; there is no need for it. The poor who live in garbage bins and in empty containers, are rich with pockets full of kindness, helping each other without any expectation of a reward. The rich and powerful (the ex-wife and her lover, the policemen, the hospital staff, the official who rents out illegal living space) seem bereft of true feelings or any human kindness. The poorer sections of society (the electrician, the restaurant staff, the family who nurses the main character, the Salvation Army staff) do good to others, care about others and expect nothing in return.

The film is an affirmation of Christian values without preaching religion. The main female character in love with the man, is ready to sacrifice her love because she genuinely respects marriage vows and even brings a "train" schedule to send off her lover to his wife. The art of giving is sanctified. A man who employed workers believes in paying his workers, even if it meant robbing a bank to do so. A lawyer argues a case well because he likes the Salvation Army. Symbolically, even half a potato among six or eight harvested is given away to some stranger wanting to eat it and avoid scurvy! Again, symbolically there is rain on a clear day to help grow the few potatoes...

The film provides humour of a quaint, Finnish variety. A timid dog that eats leftover peas is called Hannibal--a male name one can associate with a king or even the cannibalistic Hannibal Lecter--even though the dog is female. There are swipes taken against the government and its associated machinery (antiquated laws, North Korean buying Finnish banks, retirement benefits, strikes and strikers, bank staff, corrupt banking practices).

Trains play a crucial role in Kaurismaki's screenplay. It begins and ends the film. It also punctuates the film, when the past is revealed, briefly.

There are possible flaws in the film--the blue tint when the children spot the injured man. The unexplained Japanese dinner with Sake and Japanese music on the train. The significance of the cigar in the script is elusive. The choice of songs, however good, seem to be haphazard.

The script is otherwise brilliant. In glorifying the detritus of society, Kaurismaki seems to affirm there is indeed a link between the tree and falling dead leaf (with reference to a comment by a character in the movie). The train moves on. Forward, not backwards!

Minimizing the world into a man, a woman, a dog and trains, Kaurismaki serves a feast of observations for a sensitive mind--a tale told with a positive approach to move on and seize the day. It is a political film, an avant garde film, a comedy and a religious film, all lovingly bundled together by a marvelous cast.

Finland should thank Kaurismaki--he is her best ambassador. He makes the viewer love the Finns, warts and all!
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Utterly delightful
artzau24 July 2004
This film is about as fast paced as Finnish films get, I guess. Don't look for a lot of facial expressions and a lot of overt body language because you ain't gonna get it. The film moves slowly like a Saami joiking in the sauna but it wonderful to behold with each deliberate step it takes. The characters may seem a little stiff to those of us unfamiliar with the inscrutable Finns but the great Finnish reserve which overlays the story line is tweaking at our whiskers at every shuffle forward in the story. It is really amazing that we have not seen other Finnish works before. This kind of off-the-wall story which has a wonderful basis of humanity underneath the more real than life characters clustered around a site with little or no conveniences of modern living in their sea container households. The odyssey of M who wanders through his voyage in search of himself only to be reconciled not with his long suffering and long awaiting Penelope but with a frustrated but good-hearted Major Barbara.

There are lots of puns visual and otherwise with the threads of incompetent cops, doctors, nurses, employment office workers interwoven with a comical wannabe bad-guy overseer, a rock'n roll Salvation Army band, a torch-songstress SA Major and the philosophical hero who honestly can't remember.

Check this one out without fail. It's pure fun...but just don't expect it run along at breakneck speed ala Hollywood...!
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Unique & Fun, Start-To-Finnish
ccthemovieman-13 March 2006
I've watched this twice now, and throughly enjoyed both viewings, finding this film to really be a unique one. It's a Finnish film, which is unusual to start with, at least here in the U.S. because we don't see too many films from Finland. It's a black comedy, meaning deadpan looks with subtle comedic lines. In English, it's titled "The Man Without A Past."

The main actor, Markuu Peltola, is perfect for this movie with one of the most deadpan faces you'll ever see. He is amazing to watch and Kati Outinen, as his love interest, is similarly strange and fascinating. Part of their charm are their unusual looks. This is not a romance between people who look like your normal handsome film stars.

Simply, this is just something very different from anything you've seen, a combination of drama, comedy and romance with some of the strangest dialog I've ever heard on film. If you appreciate dry humor and a bizarre but touching story, you should see this.
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A Fine Movie About Adults
Terrell-419 July 2004
This Finnish film may not be for everyone. Though nominated in 2002 for an Oscar for best foreign film, I don't think it got much play in the US. It's a quiet movie about a guy who is beaten in a park in Helsinki right after getting off a train. The hospital thinks he's dead, but he staggers out, gradually recovers, and can't remember a thing. He meets a number of people, most of whom help him in some way or another. He meets a Salvation Army woman and a relationship develops.

It's hard to describe this movie. The dialogue is often funny, but delivered absolutely deadpan. There is no excitement, but a rich development of story and relationships through incidents that happen to the lead character or that he causes to happen. The two leads, Markku Peltoa and Kati Outinen, are adults and look it. There's no Hollywood handsomeness about either of them. The structure of the movie is a gem of economy. One scene ends and the film moves briskly on to the next scene. No extended, unnecessary character development. No superfluous dialogue. It may sound pompous, but this movies creates at the end a nice feeling of mature contentment.
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Guys and Dolls
jotix10013 April 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Aki Kaurismaki's film is a metaphor about surviving the worst possible tragedy in which a man loses his mind because the brutal beating that is inflicted upon him, after which, he transforms himself into a much better person than he was prior to that moment in which fate plays the horrible trick on him.

This is a film for acquired tastes of Kaurimaki's work. As a rule, his characters are people that are living outside society, as we know it, in a world of their own. Kaurismaki and his team always give us deadpan people who, at times, are hard to accept, but once the viewer falls for them, he is in for a good ride.

Mr. Kaurismaki has found actors such as Markku Peltola who is the man without the past, and Kati Outinen as the Salvation Army worker who falls in love with him, not knowing what she is in for. Ms. Outinen is marvelous in her interpretation of Irma. She plays such stoic women in everything I have seen her in. She is a very good actress who tends to erase herself, but her presence is felt throughout the film.

It is very interesting to see how many of the films that are nominated for the the Oscar as the best foreign film sometimes are not shown until after the awards are given, probably due to the fact of the narrow audiences they attract.
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Hilarity With a Straight Face
groggo4 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I can understand why this film won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes. It's a very simple story that is brilliantly paced and, for me, absolutely bloody hilarious, all without cracking a smile. NOBODY smiles in this film, even when they're saying outrageously funny things. It is weirdly reminiscent of watching a Keatonesque silent film, but with dialogue. I thought of Samuel Beckett as I watched this, and understood why he liked Buster Keaton so much: he represented humanity's eternal struggle to be seen and heard while he was surrounded by unending chaos cloaked as 'civility'.

The brilliant Finnish writer/director Aki Kaurismaki satirizes just about everything here, and does it so well that you'll miss a lot if you blink too much.

This is essentially an absurdist black comedy, but it's so much more. The acting is so unusual and so remarkably dead-pan that it becomes a testament to controlled cinematic mayhem. Markku Peltola, the unknown 'M,' who literally rises from the dead, and Kati Outinen as the stone-faced Irma, are both wonderful, but then again so is the entire cast. How Kaurismaki manages to sustain this straight-faced send-up for 100 minutes is astonishing. You just don't see this kind of stuff very often.

Kaurismaki is up to a lot of mischief with this film. With the exaggerated aloofness everywhere on display, he must surely be having fun with widespread perceptions of Scandinavian 'iciness'. I'm not sure what the Finns thought of this film, but it's deeply appreciated (and endearing) for someone in far-off Canada (we're a country of stereotypes too).

Kaurismaki doesn't miss many satirical targets: the rigid stupidity of corporate and government bureaucracy, religion (Salvation Army's new-found rock band with boyish faces singing rollicking songs with absolutely no facial emotion), the 'sanctity' of marriage, and (I loved this) the lunatical excesses of capitalism (a bank so 'downsized' that its alarm systems no longer work, it's left with one employee, and it's being sold the next day -- to North Korea).

When you can sustain this lunacy, and still make some important statements about the nature of kindness, identity, and human dignity, then you've pulled off a great work of art. I loved this film.
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Simple virtues!
rosscinema4 May 2003
This is the first Aki Kaurismaki film that I have seen and it is the second film in a trilogy. I definitely want to see the first one now and I plan on seeing the third whenever it comes to my neck of the woods. Film is a very simple story of a man (Markku Peltola) who while waiting for a train goes to a park and falls asleep on a park bench. Three thugs come along and beat and rob him. He is so beaten that when he wakes up in a hospital he has amnesia. We never do find out his name! He leaves the hospital and has no where to go. A very poor family living in a metal container take him in and try to help him. He goes to the Salvation Army for free food and an opportunity to work small jobs and its there that he meets Irma (Kati Outinen) and is attracted to her. The film follows this man as he romances Irma and works odd jobs. Its all presented in a very dry and droll comedic fashion. All the characters are very emotionless no matter what the circumstances are and in some ways its reminiscent of the films that Jacques Tati use to make. In one scene in a bank a robber enters and shoots a broken security camera and the teller and our protagonist all act very calm and very polite. At the heart of this film is even though the characters are very quiet they are very helpful of one another and seem to care for each other. I have heard that all of Kaurismaki films are like this and its been nicknamed "Aki's world". Kaurismaki is a very unique filmmaker and the way he presents his characters is in contrast to the bleak area that they live in. Even though the film and the characters are laid back in their attitude, the romance between the man and Irma shouts of passion. Their affection and fondness for one another doesn't need words. It rings loud and clear!
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Tender-hearted and Hopeful
mcnally10 September 2002
I saw this film at the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival. This sweet-natured film tells the story of a man given a fresh start. After being brutally mugged, the man loses his memory and has to rebuild his life. Without a job or money, he lands among the poorest of Helsinki's denizens, living in a cargo container by the docks. He meets and falls in love with a Salvation Army worker, and this relationship in particular made the film seem like an old 50s melodrama. The warm lighting and bright colours added to the romantic feel. This little twist of irony, as well as a generous helping of deadpan humour, had me smiling even as our hero struggled against the prejudices of a society unable to trust a man without a name.
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Rhythm music
Camera-Obscura22 January 2007
MAN WITHOUT A PAST, THE (Aki Kaurismäki - Finland/France/Germany 2002).

This second installment in Aki Kaurismaki's projected "Finland Trilogy" is a heart-warming fable about a man (Markku Peltola) who loses everything, including his identity. After M, as he is referred to for the rest of the film, dozes off on a park bench, he is awoken by a trio of thugs who brutally beat him up, steal his money and toss his wallet and identity papers into the trash bin. In the hospital, he is pronounced dead by the doctors, but by some miracle he springs back to life but with no memory whatsoever of his past or his identity. Now a penniless amnesiac, he has to build his life from scratch. Without knowing a single person (and without a single person knowing him), he must try to survive, but he soon acquires a melancholy dog named Hannibal and falls in love with Irma, a lonely salvation army soup kitchen volunteer. Of course, his past does catch up with him, but it only works to point out what's really important in his future life.

Kaurismäki usually champions the outcasts of society and here it's no different. He once said: "I make films for the unemployed, but since they don't have money to buy cinema tickets I generally have no audience." Of course, Kaurismäki has a huge audience by now, but no matter how simple and accessible the story in the film might look, he still manages to blend romance, quirky comedy and social commentary, seemingly effortless into the film's narrative.

Most of the humor doesn't come from any written gags or jokes but springs from the absurdity of the situations, all in Kaurismäki's typical deadpan-comedy style, complete with nods top '50s B-movies, rock'n'roll ("rhytm music", as it's called by M), fairytale romance and an incomparable soundtrack, featuring British beat combo, The Renegades. I just love the music in this film! Time and place hover between Helsinki in the '30s and the present. Despite the idiosyncratic set-up and the strange unreal dialog, it's incredible how very real all these characters feel. Deep sentiment but every inch of it sincere. I can't get enough of this film, no matter how often I've seen it.

Camera Obscura --- 9/10
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No Past, Pure in the Motion
tedg29 October 2009
Herzog introduced me to the tension created by moving back and forth from highly styled scenes to realistic ones in syncopated steps. It has an extraordinary effect; I do not know who first devised this technique, but it matters.

Sometimes, you will see it adding value on the real side. Rarely is it ever used this way, to multiply anchor a minimalist sketch of fate. Jarmusch does this, perhaps being the master, but this is pretty clean, novel and effective as well. Its because Fins are inherently minimalist in a particularly overt way. Stylized in a stylized way, perhaps to stand above its neighbors who value cleanliness but only after passing through terminal sophistication.

There is a sweet purity to this man we see, and the man we do not who made the thing. There is an honor in just getting up in the morning. The people here are either honest and generous — even the local cop who exploits the poor — or crippled participants in the machine. Everyone with a conventional job is in this latter class.

Just as with most Jarmusch, music and the enrichment it brings, is woven into the story as an intrinsic element. The music itself is highly stylized, and like the film is an abstraction of deep, rich emotion. It is played here by a Slavation Army band our hero brings to musical salvation. The love story matters I think, because it depends on nothing other than simple need and directness.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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superb, warm, special and sweet
Ed-902 November 2003
Having spent time working and living in Finland, I absolutely loved the film. Not only the visuals, the Helsinki waterfront, but moreso, the special warmth of Finnish culture and people. The way the men related to each other, for example, was amazingly clever in its capture (and parody) of male-male relationships. Man-woman was just was wonderful, with the long-suffering women and the helpless men (this is of course universal, not just Finnish, which makes the film fully human). The bank employee was fantastic; I saw "her" when I opened an account in a city north of Helsinki! No, it wasn't the stereotypes, but the rich cultural images that were NOT "Hollywooded" up or forced American fare. It's a real film, and I am glad I saw it. Kiitos!
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Is this a comedy or a tragedy?
silverauk5 February 2003
This movie is a comedy but in a strange way. There is only one director who can make movies who balance in this way between a comedy and a tragedy. In fact this movie starts with a horrible fact: "M" (a phlegmatic Markku Peltola) is beaten into hospital and is considered lost by the doctor, or at least he will be paralysed for life. He manages to escape but has lost memory. In a brilliant way Kaurusmäki develops a story in which the protagonists all seem to help him but without any sympathy or feelings with the exception of a soldier of the Salvation Army, Irma (Kati Outunen). Very strange is the encounter with his wife (an embarrassed Aino Seppo) and the dialogue with her lover. This is Finnish surrealism at its best. Add to this the strange sounds of the melodic Finnish language and you feel as being living on another planet.
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A strange (and wonderful) media cross!
skytomm1 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
A trailer seen at our local art-film house caused me to put this one on our "films-to-see" list. After a year's wait, we found it at a local video store, and began to view it with eager anticipation. For the first ten minutes, we were befuddled with the static camera-work and framing, the wooden immobile blocking, the stilted, terse dialogue (even so for Finns)... it just seemed all so amateurish. The film was gripping in its "differentness" - so much so that we decided that it must be a "style" piece.

FASCINATING! (to paraphrase Spock rather precisely).

After a night's sleep - the film's images firmly planted into my brain, I awake this morning recognizing that what I have seen is a comic-book-like "graphic novel" in motion-picture form. You can almost see the "balloons" surrounding the stilted dialogue. The casting is SUPERB in its selection of characteristic sharply-chiseled facial and body-types. No one here has to be an actor, although they certainly may be in real life. The players in this comedy are icons -- comic-book characters brought to living breathing life. The film proceeds static frame by static frame. You just have to see it to believe how well-done it is.

I am no fan of graphic novels, and what little I know of them comes from proximity to and affection for my elder daughter - who is a Neil Gaiman (Sandman, et al.) aficionado.

But to see a talking motion picture pick up the style is ... surprising and delightful - especially considering the expertise and elegance with which it has been done. I mean - considering the vast gulf between the two media presentation styles, limitations and facilities -- "WHY?" Who cares! See it. Enjoy it. Don't get turned off by its apparent comic-book visual straitness (to coin a term). It is - after all - a comedy with pasted-on graphic-novel seriousness. Watch - particularly - for the protagonist to arise from the "dead" and straighten his own broken nose beneath a complete headdress of bandaging before making his escape from... but, I tell too much. Proof - however - of this film's true comic nature.

I have not read any other reviews of this film, so I do not know if my assumption of the filmmaker's intent and style is accurate. But, for me, the epiphany added a wonderful "AHA!" to the earlier puzzled enjoyment of initial viewing. I'm headed to our video system directly after finishing this to watch this film again - something I rarely do.

See it! I award it a 9.5!
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excellent and without obvious clichés
MartinHafer13 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This is an excellent little film with good acting and writing and fortunately it is also without some of the obvious clichés you might expect from such a movie. What I mean by that is that repeatedly, the film does not go exactly where you'd expect it. Here are some examples: although the poor folks are generally decent in the film, they are not always so noble but are living at rock bottom for a variety of reasons. Some films or TV shows have shown the homeless as being almost saintly. Next, while the title character cannot remember who he was, once he finds out he was neither a monster nor a saint--and I was REALLY expecting this to happen.

What we have left is a clever film about a guy who cannot remember who he is and so he sets about creating a new identity for himself instead of just sitting around waiting for his past to return. Along the way he meets some really interesting characters (such as the guy in the bank and the amazingly complex Anttila). Not a great film, but so smart and refreshing it is one of the better films you could watch.

The film is rated PG-13 because it has one brief scene of violence (when the lead is beaten savagely by a gang), but other than that there's nothing offensive about the film and is acceptable viewing for teens.
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Treading an amusingly fine line (spoilers spoilers spoilers)
doodah36715 February 2003
Warning: Spoilers
The events depicted in 'Man Without A Past' would probably be, in any other film, reasonably disturbing. A guy gets brutally beaten within an inch of his life, loses all memory of his previous life, is forced to live in a shack with a Branson wannabe landlord, is the victim of armed robbery and police maltreatment, and finally finds out that his wife in a previous life had just ditched him.

Yet, Kaurismaki represents these events in such a way that everything just seems...funny. The performances from the actors seem very contrived and wooden, devoid of any actual emotion, which gives the whole film a very light-hearted feel, working hand in hand with amusing traits that most of the characters possess. This, coupled with a jaunty soundtrack and some brilliantly written dialogue ("Leave my metabolism out of this"), puts a smile on the audience's faces. But then you realise you're smiling, and considering the subject matter, the whole film becomes insanely surreal.

One reading of the film could say that the light-hearted treatment is actually a representation of the love and community spirit that is thematic in the film. The vagrants work together, even the landlord is prepared to do anything for a modest fee, and they can always rely on the kindness of strangers, or the Salvation Army. This sense of community culminates in the film's ending.

Maybe if Markku Pelota was all alone without a memory then the film would be a lot more disturbing. But, as it is, he is surrounded by kindness and love, and so the moral of this story is, if you're ever down on your luck, go to Finland! Genius.

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Joys of watching an honest film from Finland directed by a great master : Aki Kaurismaki
FilmCriticLalitRao18 September 2008
A film from Finland is always welcome as there are no so many ways of appreciating this country of around 55000 lakes.As everybody cannot afford to travel to Finland in order to know what goes there,it is better to watch a film from Finland.If such a choice is made it is better to watch a film made by Kaurismaki brothers Aki and Mika,who have been hailed globally as Finland's unofficial cultural ambassadors. "Mies Vailla Menneisyyttä" is a film about the troubles of an ordinary man who is left to fend for himself after being beaten by hoodlums.In this film Aki Kaurismaki has continued his passion of portraying underdogs as his genuine sympathies are for them.According to a shocking survey some nouveaux riches people of Finland raised their objections about this film by stating that it does not represent Finnish realities as their country is not like a poor society.It would really be nice if these people could somehow be induced to appreciate this film's humor which is not at all slapstick and comes through observation of daily lives.A good film is hardly devoid of a sensible message.This film's message is clear and simple.It is better to forget one's bad memories and not know anything rather then trying to pretend to know everybody.
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Excellent Finnish deadpan comedy
Sin Collins20 October 2002
Caught this at the Cork Film Festival. I had high hopes for it as I generally have an affinity for Scandinavian movies but this surpassed all expectations. Basically the story revolves around a guy who loses his memory after a random assault and tries to build some sort of framework for an existence where he has no identity. The episodes which follow involve his relationships with a variety of characters in the community in which he settles. These are filled with a deeply satisfying blend of rich humour and an analysis of the national psyche/culture. The humour is by turns deadpan, mildly satirical and sometimes just downright absurd and gut-wrenchingly funny. At all times it is extremely good-natured and the director has a composer's touch for hitting the right note. I might be getting it all wrong because I brought a couple of friends along and they fell asleep! I urge you to go along though and see for yourself- at the very least I promise you a very different night at the movies!
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Emotional, strong, touching... what more can you expect from a drama?
philip_vanderveken19 August 2005
Despite the fact that I'm already quite familiar with Scandinavian cinema, I must admit that I had never seen a Finnish movie before. I didn't even have one on my list of movies that I definitely wanted to see. I like Finland and its people, but I never thought that there was one of them who had ever made a movie worth noticing. Well, I was wrong about that. Aki Kaurismäki's "The Man Without a Past" is certainly one of the better movies that I've seen lately.

It all starts with an unknown man who arrives in Helsinki and who gets severely beaten up. It's so bad that he almost dies in hospital, but somehow he manages to survive and only moments later he escapes. The next time we see him again, he's lying on the shore of a river, unconscious. A family of homeless people takes care of him and when he wakes up again, he can't remember anything. He doesn't know who he is, what he's called, what his job is,... nothing. Because he isn't able to get a job or an apartment because he isn't able to give his name, he starts living in a container on the outskirts of the city, where he gradually starts to take up life again. He meets a girl that works for the salvation army and falls in love with her. But when he is arrested at the scene of a bank robbery and the police starts looking for his real identity, his name and past are revealed, turning his actual world upside down...

I must say that I was very surprised by this movie. As I already said, I'm familiar with Scandinavian cinema (mostly Danish and Swedish), but this was something completely different. Scandinavian movies are almost always excellent drama's, but this movie was even further away from being a feel-good movie than those others. And yet it wasn't. Through all the misery, you also get to see a glimpse of happiness, of hope and of true love. So this movie really leaves you behind with a double feeling. Should you feel sorry for this man or should you be happy? I guess the last option is the best, but that's only my personal opinion of course. And that duplicity can also be found in the fact that the dramatic scenes are combined with some fine, sometimes absurd humor. You even start to doubt whether it's appropriate to laugh or not. Is it OK to laugh with these situations that these people get in? Once again, I think it is, but watch it and decide for yourself.

The acting in this movie may appear a bit weird to many. The actors seem to be a bit slow in all their movements and talking, but somehow that only adds to the tragedy of the moment. It's as if you get the chance to fully understand the moment. And it has to be said, despite the fact that these people sometimes appear to be a bit emotionless, they certainly are not. I guess it's also important to know that most Finish people always try to keep a certain distance, are a bit more reserved and are less open about their emotions, certainly when you just get to know them. (I've studied with them, worked with them and been to Finland, so I know what I'm talking about).

In the end this is a very touching drama. The music and the humor make it all a bit more bearable to see how these poor people have to fight for their existence, but it never takes away the fact that you are confronted with their actual situations. I really liked that a lot and that's why I believe that this movie doesn't deserve anything less than an 8/10. I'm already looking forward to other Finnish movies.
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Great movie
jsmis27 December 2004
In 2003 i was a desperate unemployed person and one evening by chance I went to see the man without a past and it was one of the best 1-hour-and-a-half in my life. If you have been in deep trouble before, then this movie might change your life. I don't understand people giving out how fast the story goes, who cares? This is good art and cannot be looked at in the same way as we look at cheap commercial movies This movie is funny, thrilling, romantic, fantastic..great time guaranteed. I went to see the movie a second time after about a week and cried many times (I grew up in a macho society and learnt to never cry) it was too good
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not too bad of a film
lolptik21 November 2004
while a lot of films like these don't really catch my interest, i decided to sit down for this one beginning to end. Yes, it isn't filled with many twists and turns as movie nowadays yield, but it does offer something that most movies out there fail to do. The way i saw this movie was, it was the death of a man and rebirth of it. Most movies try to do such, but they've always come short on this subject. Always littered with either big name actors, no motive. Or unearthly plots that really centers around those radical plots rather than the fall and rise of a man. Something about this film caught my attention, and as young as I am, i don't think I'm too good of a film critic. But those with tastes like mine, I enjoy this movie for what it was worth. I liked how it kept to its main point, rather than detour with a love scene or a big gun fight. It was very, down to earth. Nothing too far fetched from the truth happens. (B)
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A weird, but astonishing and silently funny film
a285928930 January 2003
Whoever has seen any of Aki Kaurismäki's films might agree that they are all but mainstream. Nevertheless, the story itself doesn't have to be too complicated. In this case, a man completely loses his past in a shockingly violent way, and he rediscovers life again in an environment of bums who sleep in containers. The good thing I found about this movie was: No romanticism of misery, no enlightment of the tortured hero, no sob-stuff love story, no superflous aloof intellectualism at all. At least not in an obtrusive or overly serious way. But in a way that it sometimes shocked me , sometimes made me laugh, sometimes grin. I was never bored. And as I made it to Finland for the first time in my life a few weeks after seeing this movie - I found everything to be amazingly authentic.

A remarkable film that definitely moves into my shrine of the best 50!
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