Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video

Kati Outinen as Irma

Directed by: Aki Kaurismäki.
Produced by: Kaurismäki.
Written by: Kaurismäki.
Director of Photography: Timo Salminen.
Edited by: Timo Linnasalo.
Released by: Sony Picture Classics.
Country of Origin: Finland . 97 min. Rated: PG-13.
With: Markku Peltola & Kati Outinen.
DVD Special Features: English Subtitles.

A man (Peltola) gets off a train, sits down a park bench, and is knocked in the head and robbed by thugs. Taken to a hospital, he is left for dead. Miraculously springing to life, he staggers off into the outskirts of Helsinki, where his prone body is discovered and then cared for by an impoverished family living in an empty trash container. Having no memory of his identity, the man is given a container to call his own and begins to search for work. A night on the town for him is dinner at the Salvation Army, where he meets sad and pious Irma (Outinen) ladling soup. Even when she climbs the stairs in her dormitory where she secretly listens to rock ‘n roll, Irma’s back remains rigidly upright and her head lowered. Without playing on the viewer’s heartstrings, these two lonely souls awkwardly find each other. Typical of the film’s droll sense of humor is a police interrogation scene that almost becomes a “Who’s on first” routine. Indeed, the humor is so deadpan that The Man Without a Past will most likely play better with a theater audience than solitary at home. To describe this film as understated is an understatement, so much so that Outinen’s triple roles are so subtly portrayed as to be barely distinguishable. Unfortunately, its detached tone may cause memory loss in the viewer shortly after seeing the film. KT
May 30, 2003