THE MAN WITHOUT A PAST (MIES VAILLA MENNEISYYTTŽ), written and directed by Aki
Kaurism„ki, has a striking look. The characters stare wide-eyed into the camera
lens and don't waste much time talking. The intense music and cinematography
has the feel of an old melodrama. This will be less surprising if you have seen
Kaurism„ki's last picture, JUHA, which was a full-length, black-and-white silent
movie. I liked JUHA a lot more than THE MAN WITHOUT A PAST, but both bear a
similar artistic stamp. Although you've probably never heard of JUHA, THE MAN
WITHOUT A PAST was one of the nominees for Best Foreign Language Film at this
year's Academy Awards.
The minimal story, which plays like an early Kafka, concerns a man with no name
(Markku Peltola). When we first meet him, he is traveling alone on a train.
Once off, he is beaten to death by some two-bit hoods. After a miraculous
recovery -- or is he now a ghost? -- he makes his way to the poorest section of
Helsinki. There he lives in an abandoned box car. He is later befriended by a
Salvation Army worker named Irma (Kati Outinen), with whom he falls in love. An
accidental run-in with the police causes him to be jailed until he reveals his
name, which he doesn't know.
JUHA drew us into its minimal story, but THE MAN WITHOUT A PAST just leaves us
to admire the technique and the music without giving us much more to care
THE MAN WITHOUT A PAST runs 1:37. The film is in Finish with English subtitles.
It is rated PG-13 for "some violence" and would be acceptable for kids around
10 and up.
Copyright © 2003 Steve Rhodes