Lights in the Dusk
Security guard Koistinen goes through life sullen and alone. The very embodiment of a sad sack, he is not respected at work and has no social life. The only person he interacts with is a food cart owner, repeatedly telling her his situation is temporary and one day he will run his own company. Yet day after day, he is crushed by society, regularly mocked by his coworkers, and ignored by the opposite sex. His pitiful existence attracts a woman who takes a liking to him, but unfortunately for Koinstinen, the attraction is only the start of something worse.
My first Aki Kaurismäki flick, I’ve heard some intriguing things about this guy— mainly crushing bleakness mixed with deadpan comedy. On the right day, this sounds like my cup of tea! Lights in The Dusk, makes good on its promise of hopelessness with short bursts of biting humor. Since most of the film is composed of static shots, the impact of the dialogue relies on the viewer recognizing the absurdity of the situation. It’s tricky for me to describe, but at the very least, I applaud the level of self-awareness that the film has.
The flashes of comedy, however brilliant, are shrouded by the permanent dreariness that crushes our characters. The drab visuals and lack of movement depict an almost literal representation of how our characters are stuck in society. Every time our protagonist spouts off messages of ‘hope’ and his ‘dreams’, we cannot take them at face value in the context of the film. It is like both the character and scenery has physically/visually given up. Some may argue that these glimpses ultimately give the film a positive message, but to me, it seems crushingly depressing— and that’s great! In fact, the thing I dig most about it is how focused it is in portraying its dour themes. It’s a welcome change of pace.
The dedication Kaurismäki places in repeatedly having misfortune happen to his characters is something to be commended. I only wish it was as funny as I have heard his other works are. Nonetheless, my first Kaurismäki will not be my last. Like Koistinen, I only hope it gets better from here.
Lights in the Dusk
Director: Aki Kaurismäki
- Are eating hot dogs without buns that common in Finland? Maybe a lack of buns is why everyone’s glum
- The post-concert scene was gold.
- “Yes, it was great. Lots of action.”
- There is some chin-stroking commentary of the brief moments we see Koistinen laugh and smile, but I can only naval gaze so much.
- What an interesting viewing choice after I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore