The Man Without A Past (Mies vailla menneisyyttä) is the second chapter in director Aki Kaurismäki's 'Finland' Trilogy, but don't let that fact keep you from watching it. I'd never seen the first part before either…heck, I didn't even know there was a first part! However, this isn't your typical trilogy format. The underlying theme of the three is more about the land itself than the characters (much like Kevin Smith's 'Jersey Trilogy', but without the fart jokes).
This particular chapter focuses on a man only known as "M" who is violently attacked and left for dead. Upon recovery, he awakens with no knowledge of his former life, and must start over from scratch. While this may seem like nothing new (especially with the success of Memento, The Man Without A Past focuses not on the overall plot, but the complexity and relations between the people "M" encounters. It takes a different road than most American pictures, choosing to see things from a less glamorous light. Instead, the reality of a lost life is taken away, and a man is left with a whole path to travel. Little detail is given about the man before this all happens, and in this way, the viewer can establish a connection with "M" as he starts over.
Another key success in The Man Without A Past is the subtle use of humor to lighten the mood. This isn't your typical comedy, either…it's more of a dry, deadpan humor than anything else, but is quite appealing. Overall, the kind of comedy that will make you chuckle (or at least crack a smile), but not bust a gut laughing. The combination of humor and heartbreak really throws you for a loop, but it's all very moving. This could possibly be considered a "coming-of-age" story, but don't get too caught up in trying to categorize this one. It's very unique in every sense of the word, and is pretty refreshing material after this year's endless stream of sequels and remakes.
Like all movies though, this one certainly isn't for everyone. It's not big on budget or production, and doesn't feature any 'A-List' actors. There's probably a good chunk of viewers who would think the style of humor isn't particularly funny. And of course, those who can't watch movies with subtitles won't have their minds changed, either. If you liked Amelie or any of Wes Anderson's movies (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, or Bottle Rocket), the humor found here might be up your alley. Adam Sandler fans, click the 'Back' buttons on your browser NOW!
Well, unless you enjoyed Punch-Drunk Love. Then you may stay.
If you're looking for a quirky little movie to break up the boredom of Blockbuster new releases, you really owe it to yourself to give this a try…it's a great movie, and hopefully will get a wider audience through this release from Columbia Tri-Star. While this disc sports excellent audio and video quality, there's more to a truly great DVD release than that. Yeah, I'm talking to you, Superbit.
Menu design and presentation:
Should anything else have been included?
Boy, did Columbia Tri-Star miss a golden opportunity here. Like Leon: The Professional (both the International and Superbit versions), good audio and video are provided…but that's it. The Man Without A Past is a very recent release, and no doubt has a few possible bonus materials available. This is a little aggravating, but I suppose we should be happy to see a Region 1 release of this at all. Maybe in the future, we'll see a Special Edition, but we'll have to settle for the movie itself until that point. If you haven't had a chance to see this yet, it's really one of the best-kept secrets of the past year. The Man Without A Past is Recommended for anyone interested in a great off-beat romantic comedy, no matter what language you speak.
Randy Miller III is a part-time cartooning instructor based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in an art gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, general debauchery, and writing things in third person.