The Other Side of Hope (12a)

Sep 13, 2017
Cranbrook Film Society

Bob Dylan wrote “Pity the poor immigrant”. Kaurismäki’s sympathetic and compassionate comedy about a young Syrian asylum seeker in Finland merely demands we recognise him as a fellow human being. if filmed in a goldfish bowl…charmingly quirky, its deadpan poetic humour provides an insight into a netherworld few film makers could endow with such warmth and significance.

Aki Kaurismäki | Finland/Germany | 2017 | 100 mins | 12A

Aki Kaurismäki maker of ‘The Other Side of Hope’ is the Finnish veteran auteur director and producer of many award-winning films most famously “Leningrad Cowboys go to America” and “Man Without a Past”. A maverick who likes to make films about mavericks, Kaurismäki is very much part of the school of film best described as “laconic absurdist” with directors like Roy Anderson and Jim Jarmusch or Fassbinder. His style, however, is less intellectual and more mainstream. To Kaurismäki everything is a joke viewed through a dismal lens; he famously stated, “Talking is nonsense”. Thus dialogue is deadpan and correct, whereas the action is ridiculous or slapstick.
This is a world of cynical optimism where actors with deadpan faces say their lines as if they were Japanese haiku and turn to face the consequences and audience with apparent indifference – whilst smoking endless cigarettes. There is enormous humour and acute human observation in all this: Kaurismäki’s protagonists are all at odds with society which itself is merely an obstacle to overcome rather than a malevolent repressive force.
Most of his films are parts of trilogies set in Helsinki and all seem to have guest appearances from his dog Laika.
However if he doesn’t like your politics don’t bother inviting Kaurismäki to an awards ceremony; in 2003 despite having won prizes at Cannes and Moscow, he notoriously refused to attend the Oscars when nominated for Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film for “Man Without a Past” and “Lights in the Dark”, citing George W. Bush’s aggressive foreign policy.
“The Other Side of Hope” is his second film dealing with immigration in Europe, the first being “Le Havre”. It is shot on a largely motionless camera in a bilious palette of cobalt blue, moss green and vom. Orange and unlike his other films where everybody wants to leave Helsinki is about an illegal Syrian immigrant’s desire to stay there.
None of this apparent misery will depress you, quite the opposite. As someone says “The melancholic ones get deported first.” This is wryly dark but gentle humour: Kaurismäki’s message is “endure and accept”, the world is ridiculous but amusing and for those who take on the challenge full if interesting characters. His films for all their alienating devices exude an idealistic philosophy of inclusiveness he would like us all to adopt, even George W. Bush.
Philip Bret-Day


            Weighted vote 81%