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 ... See full summary »
When slaughterhouse workers Endre and Mária discover they share the same dreams - where they meet in a forest as deer and fall in love - they decide to make their dreams come true but it's difficult in real life.
Khaled, syrian refugee stows away on a freighter to Helsinki. Meanwhile, Wikström is a traveling salesman who wins big at a poker table and buys himself a restaurant with the proceeds. When the authorities turn down his application for asylum, Khaled is forced underground and Wikström finds him sleeping in the yard behind his restaurant. He offers him a job and a roof over his head and, for a while, they form a Utopian union with the restaurant's waitress, the chef and his dog.Written by
Prior the film's release director-producer Aki Kaurismäki and his long-time set decorator Markku Pätilä got into dispute on how the credits are listed in the Finnish titled version as all set related credits (set decorator, property master and set builder) are listed under single title "Lavastus". Kaurismäki's response for that this wording would downgrade Pätilä's role and artistic rights in the set design, Kaurismäki rejected these claims and also said Kaurismäki himself designed the detailed visual look of the film and even provided large part of the props. The response also promised that in the international version with English titles Pätilä would be the only person listed under title "set decorator". On February 1st 2017 Pätilä and his lawyers filed a case to The Market Court in Helsinki to seek injunction on film's release in Finland in its current form and the next day the court ruled that there is no need to ban the film and the issues regarding the rights on the film's set design will be determined later - assuming the parties cannot reach a settlement outside the court prior that. See more »
Kaurismäki tells a story, to his perennial template of deadpan humour, old-time music, and drab settings, of a Syrian refugee
In Aki Kaurismäki's 2016 film TOIVON TUOLLA PUOLEN ("The Other Side of Hope"), the Finnish auteur continues a theme he explored in LE HAVRE from five years earlier: refugees fleeing to Europe and forced to survive when heartless officials and some locals are against them. While that earlier film was shot in the comparatively exotic setting of the eponymous French port, TOIVON TUOLLA PUOLEN returns to Kaurismäki's familiar stomping grounds of downtown Helsinki.
The film consists of two converging plot lines. In one, the aging salesman Wikström (Sakari Kuosmanen, a longtime member of Kaurismäki's acting stable) leaves his wife, wins a lot of money in a poker game, and decides to open a restaurant. In the other, the Syrian refugee Khaled (Sherwan Haji) arrives in Helsinki after fleeing war-torn Aleppo and wandering across half of Europe, but he is worried about his sister that he got separated with along the way. Wikström and Khaled eventually meet and become friends -- or the closest thing to friends that Kaurismäki's exaggeratedly cold and morose Finns can get to each other. Before that, however, the Wikström plot line serves to inject some humour, albeit of an extremely deadpan sort, into a film that, though Khaled, explores the depressing lives of refugees who are shuffled from one center to another and forced to wait for their cases to be processed.
For three decades now, Kaurismäki has made all his films to a very distinctive template that virtually never varies. Its characters speak a minimum of dialogue to each other and show little expression on their faces. The sets are drab in colour and deliberately anachronistic, with gadgets, vehicles or clothes from the 1950s alongside computers and mobile phones from our time. At some point, a band will appear on stage playing oldies rock, blues, or Finnish tangos as the characters look on.
TOIVON TUOLLA PUOLEN doesn't stray from that template either. Still, the script has enough fresh moments to it that it will feel worthwhile even to longtime Kaurismäki films who have sat through this template many times before. Some of the humorous bits are laugh-out-loud funny, but overall this does feel like a darker film than most of the director's work. It is ultimately a choked, restrained cry of rage at the way that refugees are treated, by a Nordic society that prides itself on fairness, equality and charity. While Kaurismäki is roughly on the left politically, several of his films have attacked the Finnish welfare state for its opaque bureaucracy and its reduction of human beings to mere papers in a government file. This film continues that critique by depicting the refugees, who come from many countries but manage to band together to lend each other help, as the sort of neighborly solidarity that Kaurismäki prefers to faceless bureaucracy.
I personally wouldn't find this the best introduction to Kaurismäki. His earlier film MIES VAILLA MENNEISYYTTÄ ("The Man Without a Past") depicted with more meat on its bone a down-on-his-luck man lost among bureaucracy, while the über-idiosyncratic romantic comedy VAROJA PARATIISISSA ("Shadows in Paradise") is one of Kaurismäki's best achievements in deadpan humour. Still, TOIVON TUOLLA PUOLEN seems to tell a story universal enough to pull on everyone's heartstrings and is worth seeing.
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