Offering a warm welcome to refugees in gloomy Finland, Aki Kaurismäki’s The Other Side of Hope is one of the director’s lightest and brightest.
Shadowlandsby Mark Wilshin
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
From its title, we might expect Aki Kaurismäki’s The Other Side of Hope to be a dark tale of despair. Yet its central premise of a Syrian refugee seeking asylum in Finland is a hopeful one, despite Khaled’s (Sherwan Haji) application being denied by the Finnish authorities and being stabbed by the right wing Finnish Liberation Army. It’s a wound however, that by the end of the movie appears only skin deep, accompanied by a cigarette, a dog’s love and a smile. The future it seems is brighter. And it’s a similar story for our other protagonist Wikström (Sakari Kuosmanen), who leaves his alcoholic wife with wordless efficiency and gives up his job as a travelling shirt salesman to own a restaurant, ‘The Golden Pint’. Returning to her at the end, and actually talking to each other, it seems all they needed was a little time apart – to rest, repair and grow lonely.
Brimming with cheerless images of mechanical cranes in the twilight or lonely paintings on expansive walls, On The Other Side of Hope is suitably melancholic and wholly Kaurismäki. But punctuated with Finnish country and western songs, its blues give way to a melodic optimism. And with its feisty and often hilarious script, Kaurismäki’s film brings an unusual lightness to his habitual Finnish gloom. Most likely, the answer lies in The Other Side of Hope‘s subject matter, offering a warm welcome to all those who make it to Kaurismäki’s usually sombre land.
The Other Side Of Hope is now showing at the 67th Berlin Film Festival