Lights are barely visible in this dusky tale

PUBLISHED: 12:16 12 April 2007 | UPDATED: 14:30 07 September 2010

Lights in the Dusk (PG) Directed by Aki Kaurismäki. Starring Janne Hyytiäinen, Maria Järvenhelmi, Maria Heikanen, Ilkka Koivula. 80 mins. Two star rating Aki Kaurismäki is Finland s most esteemed film director and one of cinema s foremost minimalist mi

Lights in the Dusk (PG) Directed by Aki Kaurismäki. Starring Janne Hyytiäinen, Maria Järvenhelmi, Maria Heikanen, Ilkka Koivula.

80 mins.

Two star rating

Aki Kaurismäki is Finland's most esteemed film director and one of cinema's foremost minimalist miserablists.

You have to admire a man who knows his own mind. His methods haven't varied since he started making films more than 20 years ago - simple set up, simple stories, little or no camera movement and absolutely under no circumstances is any actor allowed to emote. In America both Jim Jarmusch and Hal Hartley began pursuing a similar course but neither stuck it out with the same rigour as Anti Charismaki.

A conclusion to a loose "loser" trilogy, the film centres on a lonely security guard Koistinen (Hyytiäinen) who is shunned and disliked by the rest of humanity. People make a real effort to belittle him though quite why is never made clear. The actor is relatively handsome and there's no indication that he smells in any way. Granted Koisitinen is crushingly dull but then so is every other character in this film.

Improbably he meets a girl, Mirja, and things get worse for him. It seems that Kaurismäki refuses to cast for looks. Mirja is meant to be a beauty well out of his league but sitting next to each other the pair seem physically well matched.

With its epic deadpan and the excessive humiliations heaped on its protagonist the situation seems ripe for comedy but it doesn't feel like we are being invited to laugh. Rather it's like Bill Murray playing Chaplin's Little Tramp in a film by Robert Bresson.

There are residual pleasures to be had from any Kaurismäki film. He and camera man Timo Salminen have a great eye for the soulless, empty expanses of modern cities. No great feat when the city in question is Helsinki, but they could film summer in Paris and make it as bleak and despairing as winter in Grimsby.

And there's something inherently marvellous about the way he strips away all guff that surrounds film making.

But there's also something rather smug about it. He holds a position thoroughly aloof from his characters; it's impossible to know what exactly he feels.

With the absence of any authorial guidance the film is almost like a Rorschach test and I became wary of it, fearing being lured into some kind of "wrong" response: laughing only to find it was a tragedy, feeling moved only to discover it was a comedy. Either way, you know for sure Kaurismäki isn't going to get his own hands dirty.

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