The Other Side of Hope(Toivon tuolla puolen) Aki Kaurismaki (Finland 2016)Sherman Haji; Sakari Kuosmanen
viewed Tyneside Cinema 29 May 2017; ticket £9.75
Even though Aki Kaurismaki’s film may by the end be something of a flat line, there is ‘hope’ in the fact that this film has been produced.The Other Side of Hope (OSH) comes as a relief from the corporate money return vehicles that dominate the ‘plexes at the moment.Kaurismaki’s has written a script that starts with a perception and which he has shot without the dominance of image, thereby allowing idea to carry the scenario.
The problem is that OSH is characterised by a lacking of some inner development and consequently its creative development tapers of, and its spirit dims…
The other side of hope is exactly what Kaurismaki concerns himself with.A state of existence which has nothing to do with plot and everything to do with seeing of a reality.Kaurismaki focuses on a psychic portrayal of Finnish society and by extension other cultures into which asylum seekers migrate and then have to locate and identify themselves.The distant shore for the seekers of refuge and hope suddenly becomes actual.The seekers ofhope find themselves in intimate intercourse with another society and have to confront and understand these forces to which they have exposed themselves. Forces both of inertia and reaction.
How do societies like Finland engage with the process of recognising the new psychic realities represented by refugees to whom they are suddenly conjoined?Kaurismaki uses his camera to answer.His camera observes, objectively as tool of observation,recording the various responses of the Finish to the appearance of Khalid.There is no point of view, there is no subjectivity, no off-voice interlocutor.The interaction is played straight, using only dialogue and camera. Ultimately it is this rigidity of playing out the forces in the scenario, that traps Kaurismaki’s film in a cycle of diminishing returns.
As if to provide the audience with some traction on the idea of another perception, Kaurismaki has given OSH a production look of Finland, that is analogous to a setting in the 1960’s /’70’s .The colour tones, most of the sets, the costumes and props, the music, all have that period flavour.The main Finnish characters all look over 50 and present as being comfortable in Kaurismaki’s retro world.
By contrast the migrants are young and are the products of the world today.
We see the people of yesterday meet the people of today.
The film exploits on two intertwined themes that never develop or deviate from type.The representation of Finnish society is scripted as a one trick pony, an invariant joke that runs through the whole film.Fins are seen as pedantic, lugubrious laborious and trapped in the past.Fins come in two basic types:wellmeaning or reactionary.Kaurismaki’s playing out of these stereotypes is monopaced and repetitive, initially amusing but after an invariant hour, uninteresting.It seemed a shame that within the realm Kaurismaki had created, he was unable to create and release another kind of interpolation that would energise the production from a different perspective.
The other dynamic in play in the script is not very original.It comprises Kaurismaki’s take on Ken Loach’s ‘Daniel Blake’. In similar fashion to Daniel Blake, Khalid is put through the grinder of the bureaucratic mill and rejected, and also targeted by a vicious group of reactionary down and outs: the losers of Finnish society. This element of interaction between Khalid and Finland is mechanically portrayed predictable and uninteresting.OSH ‘s formulaic scripting in this respect deprives the movie of any tension.In itself lack of tension would be OK were there other compensating insights or interpolations to energise the material.But there are notBy credit roller Kaurismaki seems happy to have dropped the curtain on an ambiguous ending that protects him having to make a commitment.
Kaurismaki may say he has made the film he intended.With its long musical interludes featuring old Finnish dudes reliving the glory days of their youth, OSH depicts a country locked into the past unable to relate the new realities of the 21st century’s scenario.But as the film with its monolithic structure becomes stuck in modes of repetition, if feels as if Kaurismaki, like his native culture has been unable to make the transition.