The Other Side of Hope

 

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Aki Kaurismäki’s latest soot-black comedy takes in the refugee crisis in Helsinki. 

   Other Side of Hope, The

Hope and glory: Sherwan Haji, Sakari Kuosmanen and Simon Al-Bazoon 

 

Playing the refugee crisis for laughs may not be to everyone’s taste. However, humour can sometimes illuminate a situation that drama can’t: life is absurd, make the most of it. Khaled Ali (Sherwan Haji) has little to smile about and never changes his deadpan expression throughout the length of Aki Kaurismäki’s film. We first see him as he emerges from a mountain of soot on a cargo ship in the port of Helsinki. As we soon learn, besides his sister, Khaled’s entire family were buried in the rubble of their home on the outskirts of Aleppo. As Khaled turns himself in to the Finnish police, another story plays out in which Waldemar Wikström (Sakari Kuosmanen), a travelling salesman, leaves his wife, closes down his business and attempts to take over a restaurant, a dream that he is finally in a position to realise. As Waldemar Wikström sorts out the irritating minutiae of his new venture, Khaled is shunted from pillar to post, his good nature, under increasingly calamitous events, proving to be a mark of extraordinary equanimity.

 

The tone of Aki Kaurismäki’s films change little from release to release and can do little for the Finnish Tourist Board. His settings are invariably bleak, with his unsmiling protagonists plodding about their business as if condemned to a brutal Marxist regime. The filmmaker is none too fond of the twenty-first century either, evinced by his use of superannuated appliances, rotary dial telephones and standard-issue typewriters used by the police. Kaurismäki’s world is an acquired taste but it can produce the same morbid fascination as a car crash in slow motion.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Sherwan Haji, Sakari Kuosmanen, Kati Outinen, Tommi Korpela, Timo Torikka, Elina Knihtilä, Niroz Haji, Simon Al-Bazoon.

 

Dir Aki Kaurismäki, Pro Aki Kaurismäki, Screenplay Aki Kaurismäki, Ph Timo Salminen, Pro Des Markku Pätilä, Ed Samu Heikkilä, Costumes Tiina Kaukanen.

 

Sputnik/Bufo/Pandora Film-Artificial Eye.

100 mins. Finland/Germany. 2017. Rel: 26 May 2017. Cert. 12A.