LIGHTS IN THE DUSK (Aki Kaurismäki, 2006)

Concluding a trilogy begun with Drifting Clouds (1996) and The Man Without a Past (2002), but in this case characterized by only ontological humor, Aki Kaurismäki’s quietly lovely, intense Laitakaupungin valot essays a nighttime security guard whose location sums up his existence: the nearby harbor, his loneliness and aspiration; the patch of businesses he guards, including a high-end jeweler’s, his reality: a constant reminder that Helsinki has more or less left him behind. Koistinen’s nemesis is a businessman who hates him for being a “loser” and targets him, in a complicated scheme of hoodwinking that involves a kept blonde femme fatale, to take the fall for the theft of the jewels that he engineers. This malicious individual is a cosmic force executing the unfairness of capitalism.
     Koistinen is the only character to appear in full; the businessman and the blonde lack depth, are various shades of colorlessness. A sign of some universal concern is a black boy who adopts an abused, abandoned dog and sympathetically watches over Koistinen. His eyes tell us he knows the score despite his youth. A woman who operates a coffee stand represents a possible future of assuaged loneliness for our hero. The film ends in a closeup of their joined hands.
     Kaurismäki’s most Bressonian film, with a touch of Dreyer and Cocteau besides, conjoins Koistinen’s immense loneliness with an accounting of silence punctuated by enhanced material sounds. Although he is kept from being a killer by his too-weak arm and knife, Koistinen reminded me of the young man at the center of Bresson’s L’argent (1983).
     A wonderful shot shows wind animating the ground, immediately followed, in prison, of our first glimpse of a sociable Koistinen.
     What courage and nobility are often called upon to keep hope alive!


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