Aki Kaurismäki

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Aki Kaurismäki
Aki Kaurismäki at the 2017 Berlin Film Festival
Aki Olavi Kaurismäki

(1957-04-04) 4 April 1957 (age 67)
Orimattila, Finland
Occupation(s)Film director, screenwriter

Aki Olavi Kaurismäki (Finnish pronunciation: [ˈɑki ˈkɑu̯rismæki] ; born 4 April 1957) is a Finnish film director and screenwriter. He is best known for the award-winning Drifting Clouds (1996), The Man Without a Past (2002), Le Havre (2011), The Other Side of Hope (2017) and Fallen Leaves (2023), as well as Leningrad Cowboys Go America (1989). He has been described as Finland's best-known film director.[1]

Early life and education[edit]


After graduating in media studies from the University of Tampere, Kaurismäki worked as a bricklayer, postman, and dish-washer, long before pursuing his interest in cinema, first as a critic, and later as a screenwriter & director.[2] He started his career as a co-screenwriter and actor in films made by his older brother, Mika Kaurismäki. He played the main role in Mika's film The Liar (1981). Together they founded the production company Villealfa Filmproductions and later the Midnight Sun Film Festival. His debut as an independent director was Crime and Punishment (1983), an adaptation of Dostoyevsky's novel set in modern Helsinki. He gained worldwide attention with Leningrad Cowboys Go America (1989). In 1992, the New York Times film critic Vincent Canby declared Kaurismäki "an original ... one of cinema's most distinctive and idiosyncratic new artists, and possibly one of the most serious.... [He] could well turn out to be the seminal European filmmaker of the '90s."[3]

Personal life[edit]

In 1989 he emigrated with his wife, Paula Oinonen, to Portugal, saying "in all of Helsinki there is no place left where I could place my camera".[4] As of 2023, he is still based in Portugal.[5] In Helsinki, Kaurismäki is the co-owner of a complex, Andorra, that incorporates a cinema, several bars and a pool hall featuring a giant poster for Robert Bresson's L’Argent. It also features the jukebox from Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses.[6]


Aki Kaurismäki on Calamari Union's first night in 1985
Aki Kaurismäki in 1990
Aki Kaurismäki in 2012

Kaurismäki is known for his extremely minimalistic style. He has been called an auteur,[7][8] since he writes, directs, produces and usually edits the films himself, and thus introduces his personal "drollery and deadpan"[9] style. The camera is usually still.[10] Events are shown in a plain manner and characters are usually left alone facing the consequences. However, despite their tragedies and setbacks, the characters do not give up and eventually survive.[8]

Much of Kaurismäki's work is centred on Helsinki, such as the film Calamari Union, the proletariat trilogy (Shadows in Paradise, Ariel and The Match Factory Girl) and the Finland trilogy (Drifting Clouds, The Man Without a Past and Lights in the Dusk). His vision of Helsinki is critical and singularly unromantic. Indeed, his characters often speak about how they wish to get away from Helsinki. Some end up in Mexico (Ariel), others in Estonia (Shadows in Paradise, Calamari Union, and Take Care of Your Scarf, Tatjana). Kaurismäki also uses, on purpose, characters, elements and settings that hark back to the 1960s and 1970s.[8]

Kaurismäki has been influenced by the French directors Jean-Pierre Melville, Jacques Becker, and Robert Bresson, the Japanese director Yasujirō Ozu, the American director John Cassavetes, and some critics have also inferred the influence of Rainer Werner Fassbinder. His movies have a humorous side that can also be seen in the films of Jim Jarmusch, who has a cameo in Kaurismäki's film Leningrad Cowboys Go America. Jarmusch used actors who have appeared frequently in Kaurismäki's films in his own film Night on Earth, part of which takes place in Helsinki.

Kaurismäki has been a vocal critic of digital cinematography, calling it "a devil's invention"[11] and saying he "won't make a digital film in this life".[12] In March 2014, however, he reconciled, saying that "in order to maintain my humble film oeuvre accessible to a potential audience, I have ended up in rendering it to digital in all its present and several of its as yet unknown forms".[11]

Political views[edit]

The political context of Kaurismäki's work is very much influenced by his attitude to Finland's treatment of the working class. In his view, the social and political ramifications of class structures and lack of economic parity render lower-class workers replaceable cogs in an outdated machine.[13]

In December 2019, along with 42 other leading cultural figures, Kaurismäki signed a letter endorsing the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership in the 2019 general election. The letter stated that "Labour's election manifesto under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership offers a transformative plan that prioritises the needs of people and the planet over private profit and the vested interests of a few."[14][15]

Kaurismäki has been a critic of Finland's immigration policy. When Iraqi refugees arrived in Finland, Kaurismäki said many people in the country "perceived that as an attack, like a war." He was alarmed by their reaction and decided to make a film, The Other Side of Hope, in an effort to "change the Finns' attitude." "I respect Mrs. Merkel," he said, referring to the German chancellor's open-door refugee policy, "She is the only politician who seems to be at least interested in the problem."[16] In a 2007 interview with the film scholar Andrew Nestingen, Kaurismäki said: "The real disgrace here is Finland's refugee policy, which is shameful. We refuse refugee status on the flimsiest of grounds and send people back to secure places like Darfur, Iraq, and Somalia. It's perfectly safe, go ahead. Our policy is a stain among the Nordic nations. Shameful."[17] In 2023, he said he was against Finland's entry into NATO.[5]

In December 2023, alongside 50 other filmmakers, Kaurismäki signed an open letter published in Libération demanding a ceasefire and an end to the killing of civilians amid the 2023 Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip, and for a humanitarian corridor into Gaza to be established for humanitarian aid, and the release of hostages.[18][19][20]


Feature films

Year Title Director Writer Producer Editor Notes
1983 The Worthless No Yes No No
Crime and Punishment Yes Yes No No
1984 The Clan - Tale of the Frogs No Yes No No
1985 Calamari Union Yes Yes Yes Yes Also composer
Rosso No Yes No No
1986 Shadows in Paradise Yes Yes No No
1987 The Final Arrangement No Yes Yes No
Hamlet Goes Business Yes Yes Yes No
1988 Ariel Yes Yes Yes No
1989 Dirty Hands Yes Yes No No TV Movie
Leningrad Cowboys Go America Yes Yes Yes No
1990 The Match Factory Girl Yes Yes Yes Yes
I Hired a Contract Killer Yes Yes Yes Yes
1992 La Vie de Bohème Yes Yes Yes Yes
1994 Take Care of Your Scarf, Tatiana Yes Yes Yes Yes
Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses Yes Yes Yes Yes
1996 Drifting Clouds Yes Yes Yes Yes
1999 Juha Yes Yes Yes Yes
2002 The Man Without a Past Yes Yes Yes No
2006 Lights in the Dusk Yes Yes Yes Yes
2011 Le Havre Yes Yes Yes No [21]
2017 The Other Side of Hope Yes Yes Yes No [22]
2023 Fallen Leaves Yes Yes Yes No [23]


Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes
1981 The Saimaa Gesture Yes Uncredited Uncredited Co-directed with Mika Kaurismäki
1994 Total Balalaika Show Yes Yes Yes
2013 Juice Leskinen & Grand Slam: Bluesia Pieksämäen asemalla Yes Concept Yes Documentary short film

Short films

Year Title Director Writer Producer Editor Notes
1981 The Liar No Yes No No Medium-length film
1982 The Liar 2 No Yes No No
1986 Rocky VI Yes Yes Yes Yes
1992 Shit Happens No No Yes Yes
1996 Employement Agent Yes Yes Yes Yes
2002 Dogs Have No Hell Yes Yes Yes Yes Short film included in the anthology film Ten Minutes Older - The Trumpet
2004 Bico Yes Yes Yes Yes Short film included in the anthology film Visions of Europe
2006 The Foundry Yes Yes Yes Yes Short film included in the anthology film To Each His Own Cinema
2012 Tavern Man Yes Yes Yes Yes Short film included in the anthology film Centro Histórico

Music Videos

Year Title Director Writer Producer Editor
1987 Thru the Wire Yes Yes Yes Yes
Rich Little Bitch Yes Yes Yes No
L.A. Woman Yes Yes Yes No
1992 Those Were The Days Yes Yes Yes Yes
1993 These Boots Yes Yes Yes Yes
1996 Always Be a Human Yes No No No

As an actor

Awards and protests[edit]

Kaurismäki's film Ariel (1988) was entered into the 16th Moscow International Film Festival where it won the Prix FIPRESCI.[24]

Kaurismäki's most acclaimed film has been The Man Without a Past, which won the Grand Prix and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival[25] and was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Foreign Language Film category in 2003. However, Kaurismäki refused to attend the Oscar ceremony, asserting that he did not feel like partying in a country that was in a state of war. Kaurismäki's next film Lights in the Dusk was also chosen to be Finland's nominee for best foreign-language film, but Kaurismäki again boycotted the awards and refused the nomination, as a protest against U.S. President George W. Bush's foreign policy. In 2002 Kaurismäki also boycotted the 40th New York Film Festival in a show of solidarity with the Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, who was not given a US visa in time for the festival.[26]

Kaurismäki's 2017 film The Other Side of Hope won the Silver Bear for Best Director award at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival.[27] At the same festival he also announced that it would be his last film as a director, although the retirement was short-lived as he began filming another film, Fallen Leaves, in 2022, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2023.[28] Kaurismäki became the second director, after Paul Thomas Anderson, to win his third FIPRESCI Grand Prix.[29]

List of awards[edit]

Cannes Jury Prize
2023 Fallen Leaves[30]
Silver Bear
2017 The Other Side of Hope
Cannes Grand Prix
2002 The Man Without a Past
Cannes Ecumenical Jury Special Mention
1996 Drifting Clouds
Cannes Prize of the Ecumenical Jury
2002 The Man Without a Past
2011 Le Havre
2002 The Man Without a Past
2017 The Other Side of Hope
2023 Fallen Leaves
Jussi for Best Film
2006 Lights in the Dusk
Jussi for Best Debut Film
1983 Crime and Punishment
Jussi for Best Script
1983 Crime and Punishment
1996 Drifting Clouds
2002 The Man Without a Past
2011 Le Havre
Jussi for Best Direction
1990 The Match Factory Girl
1992 La vie de bohème
1996 Drifting Clouds
2002 The Man Without a Past
São Paulo Audience Award for Best Feature
1996 Drifting Clouds

See also[edit]


  1. ^ C.G. (11 October 2017). "Explaining the Finnish love of tango". The Economist.
  2. ^ Kumar, Arun (17 December 2019). "10 Essential Aki Kaurismaki Films".
  3. ^ "Aki Kaurismäki Finds Laughter in the Dark". TIFF.
  4. ^ Ralph Eue and Linda Söffker (eds.): Aki Kaurismäki (film: 13). Bertz + Fischer Verlag 2006. Pp. 188-191 (German)
  5. ^ a b Pham, Annika (24 May 2023). "Kaurismäki about war in Ukraine, love, Chaplin, and asparagus". Nordisk Film & TV Fond. Retrieved 19 July 2023.
  6. ^ Gilbey, Ryan (26 May 2017). "Aki Kaurismäki: 'I can watch Marvel movies – if it's Sunday and I'm hungover'" – via www.theguardian.com.
  7. ^ Andrew Nestingen (June 2013). The Cinema of Aki Kaurismäki: Contrarian Stories. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-85041-4.
  8. ^ a b c "FilmGoer - Suomi- ja suomalaisuudenkuva Kaurismäen veljesten tuotannossa". www.filmgoer.fi.
  9. ^ Peter Bradshaw (5 April 2012). "Le Havre – review". The Guardian.
  10. ^ Ebert, Roger, The Man Without A Past, Chicago Sun-Times, 27 June 2003. http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20030627/REVIEWS/306270306/1023 Archived 16 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ a b "Aki Kaurismäki Crosses the Digital Rubicon". Antti Alanen: Film Diary. 28 March 2014. Retrieved 28 March 2014.
  12. ^ ""I am a filmmaker not a pixelmaker" - An interview with Aki Kaurismäki". Phil on Film. 2 April 2012. Retrieved 28 March 2014.
  13. ^ laird, zoë (6 October 2014). "An Aki Kaurismaki Film". Medium.
  14. ^ "Vote for hope and a decent future". The Guardian. 3 December 2019. Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  15. ^ Proctor, Kate (3 December 2019). "Coogan and Klein lead cultural figures backing Corbyn and Labour". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  16. ^ "Filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki takes unusual approach to refugee issue | DW | 29.03.2017". DW.COM.
  17. ^ Rafferty, Terrence (8 December 2017). "The Finnish Director Making the Most Interesting Movies About Immigration". The Atlantic.
  18. ^ "Gaza : des cinéastes du monde entier demandent un cessez-le-feu immédiat". Libération (in French). 28 December 2023. Retrieved 24 January 2024.
  19. ^ Newman, Nick (29 December 2023). "Claire Denis, Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Christian Petzold, Apichatpong Weerasethakul & More Sign Demand for Ceasefire in Gaza". The Film Stage. Retrieved 24 January 2024.
  20. ^ "Directors of cinema sign petition for immediate ceasefire". The Jerusalem Post. 31 December 2023. Retrieved 24 January 2024.
  21. ^ "Match Factory picks up Kaurismäki's Le Havre". Cineuropa - the best of European cinema.
  22. ^ ""Aki Kaurismaki's Next Film 'The Other Side Of Hope' Gearing Up"".[permanent dead link]
  23. ^ "Aki Kaurismäki Reveals New Film, First Cast Members". 10 June 2022.
  24. ^ "16th Moscow International Film Festival (1989)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 16 March 2013. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  25. ^ "Festival de Cannes: The Man Without a Past". festival-cannes.com. Archived from the original on 10 October 2014. Retrieved 25 October 2009.
  26. ^ Bohlen, Celestine (1 October 2002). "One Visa Problem Costs a Festival Two Filmmakers". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 September 2008.
  27. ^ Roxborough, Scott (18 February 2017). "Berlin: Aki Kaurismaki Wins Best Director for 'The Other Side of Hope'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 21 February 2017.
  28. ^ "Legendary filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki: There will be no more films". Yle Uutiset. 16 February 2017. Retrieved 21 February 2017.
  29. ^ Pölönen, Sakri (23 August 2023). "Kansainvälinen kriitikkojärjestö valitsi Aki Kaurismäen elokuvan vuoden parhaaksi". Helsingin Sanomat. Retrieved 24 August 2023.
  30. ^ Peter Debruge (27 May 2023). "Cannes Awards: 'Anatomy of a Fall' Takes Palme d'Or, 'The Zone of Interest' and 'The Pot au Feu' Among Winners". Variety. Retrieved 11 July 2023.


  • Roger Connah K/K: A Couple of Finns and Some Donald Ducks: Cinema and Society. VAPK Pub., Helsinki, 1991
  • Ródenas, Gabri (2008), "The Poetry of Silence", Orimattila Town Library.[dead link]
  • Pilar Carrera: "El cineasta que vino del frío (Bico-Visión)" ("The moviemaker who came in from the cold"): [1]

External links[edit]