Lights in the Dusk (4 stars)

  • The List
  • 21 May 2007

(PG) 78min


The final part of Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki’s ‘Loser Trilogy’ (preceded by Drifting Clouds and The Man Without a Past) concerns itself with lonely night watchman Koistinen (Janne Hyytiäinen) who has modest hopes of setting up his own business. But then he meets blonde femme fatale Aila (Maria Heiskanen) and piece-by-piece his life falls apart as Aila’s Mr Big (Ilkka Koivula) inveigles him in his criminal plans.

As is always the case with Kaurismäki the man behind such slow burning oddball gems as Leningrad Cowboys Go America, Hamlet Goes Business, Crime and Punishment and The Match Factory Girl, this is a case of ‘same shit, different day’. Imbued with familiar Kaurismäki trademarks - long shots of empty frames that the actors have just walked out of, fades to black, sparse dialogue, mannered acting, chain-smoking and a streak of black humour so deadpan it has developed rigor mortis - Lights in the Dusk is a dour minimalist treat.

Lifted towards the end by what seems to be a newfound optimism on Kaurismäki’s part, this is clearly a nod to everything he deems to be cool as he nears his 50th birthday. Not much has changed; he still loves Chaplin (Koistinen is the little tramp personified, who in Kaurismaki’s own words is looking ‘for a small crack to crawl in through, but his fellow beings and the faceless apparatus of society see it as their business to crush his modest hopes . . .’) and film noirs and the tango music of Argentinean Carlos Finn and Finn Olavi Virta. As usual this visually stunning film is shot on 35mm (unlike his contemporaries Kaurismaki refuses to go digital) by regular collaborator Timo Salminen. As Frank Zappa pointed out: ‘It’s always advisable to be a loser if you cannot become a winner.’ Or to put it another way: ‘I’m a loser baby so why don’t you kill me?’

(Paul Dale)

GFT, Glasgow from Mon 28-Thu 31 May. Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Fri 1-Thu 7 Jun.

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