Aki Kaurismäki is known as the most prominent director in Finland's history. Aki is a very strong figure when it comes to politics and speaking up about them. One of his films, Lights in the Dusk, was chosen to be the Finnish nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, but Aki rejected the nomination in protest to George W. Bush’s foreign policy. He’s respected as a creator all over the world, but he doesn’t necessarily respect how things are done around the world. It shows in his work, as he shines a light on the working class people of Finland. Shadows in Paradise is part one of the Proletariat Trilogy and it won the Best Film Award at the 1987 Jussi Awards, which is Finland's biggest film event.
Nikander is a garbage man who fills his off time with alcohol, cigarettes, and coffee. One day, while he’s working, his co-worker suffers a heart attack and dies. Nikander gets really drunk and eventually thrown into jail where he meets Melartin. They talk for a bit and then Nikander tells him that there's a job opening where he works. They become co-workers, drive a garbage truck together, and drink at night together. Nikander doesn’t smile or laugh ever, but he shows a tiny bit of emotion when he sees a grocery store clerk named Ilona and they have an on and off again relationship.
Shadows in Paradise is a very simple film with few characters, but it’s hilarious and powerful at the same time. Matti Pellonpää is fucking fantastic as the lonely Nikander. His mustache never moves and we don’t ever see his teeth. The dude was locked in for this film. Kati Outinen has such a distinctive look and I just believed each move she made as Ilona. Now, the character of Melartin is something I want and need more of. Sakari Kuosmanen just embodies what I love about supporting characters in comedies. The tone and writing in Shadows in Paradise is so damn good. I will definitely be finishing the Proletariat Trilogy and checking out Aki’s other work.