The Man Without a Past
(Mies vailla menneisyyttä)
Markku Peltola, Kati Outinen, Annikki Tähti, Juhani Niemelä,
Aki Kaurismäki has an unsentimental soft spot for the working class, albeit well hidden behind artfully sardonic realism. More than the memorably long-faced antiheroes of The Match Factory Girl and Drifting Clouds, the hero of this film—call him M—has reason to be deadpan: drifting into a strange city, he is set upon by thugs who leave him for dead and render him amnesiac. M is found and nursed by a family living in an abandoned shipping container, and eventually such an abode becomes available to him, complete with landlord and devoted dog. Dinner at the Salvation Army, where the dour Kati Outinen is Garbo with a soup ladle, completes the picture. Kaurismäki and the great cinematographer Timo Salminen have painted the picture in rich, expressionist swaths of color playing off natural light (poverty lives outdoors). Whereas in previous AK films a honeymoon in Estonia was about as good as it gets, The Man Without a Past looks further into the heart of poverty to find a wealth of genuine (and genuinely funny) humanity, a kindness in strangers, and strange poetry. To be stripped of a past is to lose all connection to capitalism, and that is a kind of starting over—Eden in a handbasket.