Keswick Film Club - Reviews - The Other Side of Hope

Reviews - The Other Side of Hope

The Other Side of Hope

Reviewed By Stephen Pye

The Other Side of Hope
The Other Side of Hope
Aki Kaurismaki's films are so lovable. They lope along like old mutts, as if imperfection, wear-and-tear and "dogged" simple mindedness were part of life's poignant, sometimes heartbreaking appeal.

In the "Other Side of Hope" a thirtyish Syrian refugee (Sherwan Haji) seeks shelter in a Finnish city, while a fiftyish travelling salesman (Sakari Kausmanen), quitting job and wife, seeks his own new start buying a restaurant After an hour of separate but parallel plots, the two men meet, bnd and recognise a daft, stoical kinship.

The film is interspersed with amateurish music interludes (Finnish Rockability). The words of these quasi-folk songs speak of enchanting scenery, pastoral idyll and welcoming wenches, so far removed from the films own setting in some drab suburb of Helsinki.

The film is actually meant to feel "clunky" as this is part of Kaurismaki's style, and critique of all that passes for polish in the faux-beautiful world of mainstream movies. The attempt to re-brand the restaurant as Japanese feels like a cross between an early Laurel and Hardy and a Fawlty Towers episode. The man sat in the row behind could not stop laughing for 15 minutes! And indeed there is much mordant humour throughout the film, but, in part at least, Kaurismaki is using humour to underline a deeper malaise, dead-end jobs, incipient and violent racism, and the fragility of existence which "late capitalism" has bestowed upon so called "developed societies".

The film is all noir-ish shadows, fauvist colouring and plonky props (from the artificial cactus onwards). It looks "washed up" mirroring the refugees literally washed up on our shores; seeking a new vibrant and less cruel world and in turn discovering another version of hell.

In the end though the film has a kind of feel-good quality. There is hope in the "small unremembered acts of kindness and love" (which poem is that from??), especially if such acts are visited on the aliens and strangers in our midst.

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Keswick Film Club won the Best New Film Society at the British Federation Of Film Societies awards in 2000.

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