Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Shadows in Paradise

Written and directed by Aki Kaurismaki, Varjoja paratiisissa (Shadows in Paradise) is the story about a lonely garbage man who finds himself falling for a shy supermarket cashier as they begin a unique relationship. The first in a trilogy of films based on working-class outcasts, the film explores the relationship of two people who are lost in the world. Starring Matti Pellonpaa, Kati Outinen, Sakari Kuosmanen, Esko Nikkari, and Mato Valtonen. Varjoja paratiisissa is an extraordinary film by Aki Kaurismaki.

A garbage man meets a supermarket cashier as the two form an unlikely relationship based on their own loneliness and having a hard time fitting in with the rest of the world. Because of their shyness with nearly everyone as they have few friends, they manage to connect with each other despite some awkwardness between the two. Even as they both send mixed signals toward one another where it causes some frustrations in the relationship. It’s a film that explore these two people who are from working-class environments in Helsinki as they both have a hard time trying to connect as the garbage man is dealing with the death of a colleague while the cashier is dealing with being laid off.

Aki Kaurismaki’s script is quite simple but also very unconventional as there’s not a dialogue while many of the meetings between the two characters in Nikander (Matti Pellonpaa) and Ilona (Kati Outinen) have its share of humor but it’s a bit dark at times but also awkward. Notably as neither of them have any idea of what to say to each other or where to go for a date as it is very obvious that both of them hadn’t done a lot of socializing as they often work for most of their lives. While they have friends who try to help them out, it only make things worse for them as Nikander and Ilona both go into different directions that become questionable.

Kaurismaki’s direction is quite simple in terms of the compositions that he creates but are still entrancing for the way he frames his actors into a scene. Notably as he uses Helsinki not just as a backdrop but also as a major character in the film. A lot of it plays into that working-class environment that Nikander and Ilona live in where despite their lonely personas, it’s a place where they can belong in some ways as it always something to offer. That is something that is in sharp contrast to the more posh-restaurants they try to go to on a date where they wear nice clothes but couldn’t get in.

Even the new job that Ilona would get would feel off as her boss thinks of Nikander as nothing more than a “shit collector” because of what he does for a living. Still, Kaurismaki makes these characters very engaging to know that they don’t have everything together but will always find a way to do what is right for them no matter how awkward they are for each other. Overall, Kaurismaki creates a very tender yet eccentric film about two lonely people coming together.

Cinematographer Timo Salminen does excellent work with the cinematography as it‘s quite low-key with the exception of some scenes set at night that include a few lighting schemes. Editor Raija Talvio does terrific work with the editing as it has a few jump-cuts and fade-outs where a lot of it is straightforward with bits of style. Art directors Pertti Hilkamo and Heikki Ukkonen is fantastic to display the working-class home of Nikander as well as the places he and Ilona go to. The sound work of Jouko Lumme is superb as it is very naturalistic from the sound of the garbage trucks to the sounds of the city. The film’s music soundtrack largely consists of different kinds of music from jazz and rock along with some blues cuts by Albert Collins, Elmore James, and John Lee Hooker to help play into the film’s melancholia.

The film’s cast is brilliant as it features some notable small roles from Pekka Laiho as Ilona’s boss at the clothing store she works at late in the film, Esko Nikkari as Nikander’s co-worker early in the film, Malto Valonen as Ilona’s old boss at the supermarket, Kylli Kongas as Ilona’s friend/co-worker from the supermarket, and Sakari Kuosmanen as Nikander’s new co-worker Melartin who helps Nikander out. Kati Outinen is amazing as Ilona as a young woman who is very shy as she has no idea how to be with someone while finding herself unsure of Nikander’s feelings for her as she is dealing with being laid off and finding a place to live. Matti Pellonpaa is marvelous as Nikander as this simple garbage man who deals with loss as he also tries to learn English while trying to make Ilona feel welcome despite their awkwardness. Outinen and Pellonpaa make a great pair in the way they put in some subtle humor as well as drama into their performances to display two people just lost in the world.

Varjoja paratiisissa is a phenomenal film by Aki Kaurismaki that features superb performances from Matti Pellonpaa and Kati Outinen. The film is definitely a very exhilarating portrait into the world of alienation in the working-class world as two people try to find themselves while falling in love. Even as they deal with the tribulations of what is expected from them as people. In the end, Varjoja paratiisissa is a fantastic film from Aki Kaurismaki.

Aki Kaurismaki Films: (Crime and Punishment (1983 film)) - (Calamari Union) - (Hamlet Goes Business) - (Ariel) - (Leningrad Cowboys Go America) - (Dirty Hands) - (The Match Factory Girl) - (I Hired a Contract Killer) - (La Vie de Boheme) - (Take Care of Your Scarf, Tatiana) - Total Balalaika Show -(Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses) - (Drifting Clouds) - (Juha) - (The Man Without a Past) - (Lights in the Dusk) - Le Havre

© thevoid99 2013

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