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Other Side of Hope, The
The Other Side of Hope is the latest film from acclaimed Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki (Leningrad Cowboys, Le Havre). It is produced by Kaurismäki alongside associate producer Reinhard Brundig (Whale Rider, Samsara) and co-producers Misha Jaari (The Interrogation) and Mark Lwoff (The Good Son).
Khaled (Sherwan Haji) is a Syrian refugee trying to find a new beginning in Finland. Attempting to leave behind the dangers of Syria, where a bomb could fall on his head during his day to day routine, Khaled seeks peace and work in Helsinki. The Syrian refugee struggles to find a way to live a normal life in this land with many opposed to the refugees in the country and hate-crimes being committed by anti-immigrant groups. In one moment of the film, Khaled is attacked by a group wearing jackets with the words "Liberation Army Finland" emblazoned on the back.
Waldemar Wikstrom (Sakari Kuosmanen) is a somewhat bumbling Finnish salesman who is trying to do something new for a change by buying a restaurant. Thinking he got himself an excellent deal (though he didn't as the business was suffering to start), he takes up the bar's reigns and tries to up the ante on the meal offerings from canned goods to the likes of the significantly more trendy sushi (though the staff has a terrible time of trying to adapt to it).
As Khaled attempts to get by on a day-to-day basis, he pursues his mission of trying to also bring over his sister to Finland as well. Along with the help of a friend he meets and gets to know over the course of the story, Khaled navigates the country with as much vigor as he can muster. The film eventually intersects the two opposing storylines into one when Khaled find himself right outside of Wikstrom's restaurant. They have a quick fist-fight before deciding to work together. Wikstrom gives Khlaed a job and helps to give him a new chance at life in Finland, with other staff members lending their hand.
The film is both a deeply serious and moving drama and a curiously humorous comedy with the unique voice its filmmaker, Kaurismäki. The film alternates between remarkably tender moments and moments that are so surprisingly funny that it's amazing the film can blend together these elements so seamlessly. The film has a humanistic and sincere heart to it as it looks at the ways in which refugees are so often mistreated by foreign countries. Kaurismäki lends his voice to why Finland should embrace and help the Syrian refugees for their strife and with this film makes a statement against the hate-crimes and discrimination faced by many of the Syrian refugees in his country.
The film has an immaculate production design and aesthetic. The art direction by Markku Patila (Lights in the Dusk, A Man's Job) is notable with great sets and attributes. As with all films by Kaurismäki, the film has a distinct style which is aided by the superb work of the production team. The cinematography by Timo Salminen (I Hired a Contract Killer, The Man Without a Past) is also exquisite and gives the film a beautifully melancholic atmosphere which leaves several lasting and beautiful moments in mind.
The film is also marked by its remarkable music. Without a doubt, The Other Side of Hope has one of the best soundtracks of the entire year. With one superb music selection after another, with many songs performed live, the music feels energetic, exciting, and undeniably cool. The Finnish musicians gathered for this film all bring their own distinctive flavors the piece and it helps to make the film even more refreshing.
Written and directed by Aki Kaurismäki (La Vie De Boheme), The Other Side of Hope is another brilliant masterpiece from the Finnish director. His films have such a clear vision and style. The sensibility of this master director is impeccable. Each frame feels essential to the story. There is no wasted moment. From the quiet, almost wordless beginning of the film to the rewarding final shot, Kaurismäki's film is the kind that reminds audiences of why cinema is so important. It will stay with you long after the credits have finished.
Presented on Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen, this 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded presentation is a director-approved release of the film with a 2K scan. The film was shot on 35mm Kodak film and has an undeniably impressive quality to it on this release. The film keeps to the sensibility of photography present in each of Kaurismäki's efforts. Cinematographer Timo Salminen gave the film beautiful photography which enhances the experience.
Presented in Finnish and Arabic 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio with English subtitles. This is a quality lossless high-definition sound presentation with strong clarity and fidelity overall. Though the film is not one to have a very active surround sound presentation, the audio is pleasing for it's great dialogue reproduction and clarity for the excellent music featured throughout.
Inside of the package is a leaflet with a printed essay about the film written by critic Girish Shambu.
On disc supplements include:
Interview with Sherwan Haji (HD, 15 min.) is a newly recorded interview with the lead actor of the film about how he became involved in the production. He also discusses what it was like working with the great Kaurismäki and explores their collaborative process.
Press Conference Footage (HD, 29 min.) as taken from the premiere of The Other Side of Hope at the 2017 Berlin International Film Festival, featuring writer/director Aki Kaurismäki, actor Sherwan Haji, and actor Sakari Kuosmanen discussing the film with the attending audience. Featuring great insight from director Kaurismäki, this is a must-see behind-the-scenes feature.
Aki and Peter (HD, 12 min.) is a video essay featuring excerpts from the words of film critic Peter von Bagh about filmmaker Kaurismäki and his films. The Other Side of Hope was dedicated by director Kaurismäki to Peter von Bagh, who passed away, and had been a big supporter. Bagh even wrote a book about Kaurismäki's work (that book, alas, has yet to be translated to English).
Music Videos are provided in their full length versions (as featured in part during the main film) as follows:
Kaipuuni Tango (HD, 3 min.)
Music by Marko Haavisto and Poutahaukat
Title translation: "The Tango of my Longing"
Midnight Man (HD, 3 min.)
Music by Ismo Haavisto
Skulaa Tai Delaa (HD, 3 min.)
Music by Dumari & Spuget featuring Esa Pulliainen
Title translation: "I Play or I Die"
Tama Maa (HD, 4 min.)
Music by Harri Marstio and Antero Jakoila
Title translation: "This Land"
Trailer (HD, 2 min.)
Kaurismäki is a remarkable filmmaker who continues to demonstrate why he is such a huge figure in foreign cinema with his latest masterpiece The Other Side of Hope. This Criterion Collection edition features an excellent presentation and a number of absorbing extras.
Deftly blending together the deeply personal and comic, The Other Side of Hope is a must-see film.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.