26 July 2010
There's a scene late in Shadows in Paradise when our hero Nikander, having won and lost his ferociously tepid love Ilona, where he's back at his night job translating English recordings into Finnish (or at least that's what I think he's doing). The snippet we catch goes as follows: "I was pretty well through with the subject. I'd probably considered it from most of its various angles, including the one that certain injuries or imperfections are a subject of merriment while remaining quite serious for the person possessing them. It's funny. It's very funny. And it's a lot of fun too, to be in love. Do you think so?" It's a strange monologue, and when he tries to play it back he finds it unbearable. He cannot face the lines, and he leaves his job abruptly, work unfinished. These lines are so awkwardly spot-on about this beautifully awkward story that they are jarring, confrontational, and yet they read like so many opaque lines of stereo instructions that you're not sure if you even got the meaning right. Maybe you imagined that it summed up the movie, but it felt like it did.
The tone here is just so delicate. I've never felt more invited to laugh at deadpan sadsacks as when watching an Aki Kaurismäki film, but it's never all that funny. What I didn't remember, and now find amazingly obvious, is how proto-Jarmuschian this is, reminding me of Ghost Dog, Broken Flowers, Limits of Control, and of course the similarly titled Stranger Than Paradise. Everything from little details like her portable stereo and the way they smoke to the general tone to the sedate way things never really boil over, and of course the more-bleak-than-black sense of humor. It's all very like where Jim Jarmusch would go, and curiously (but separately?) this film feels amazingly like a solution to a problem of tone and pacing to one of my scripts (The World of Missing Persons, only so noted in case I come back wondering). It's matter-of-fact and slice-of-life but with a tinge of absurdism. I really like it, even though on a certain level it seems (absurdly) like I'm watching cinema's first Aspergers romance. I'll have to revisit this one in the future when I get back to that script. Between Kaurismäki and Roy Andersson (Songs of the Second Floor and You, the Living), it seems like I'm constantly being inspired for my own films by contemporary Scandinavian cinema. Like I said, bleak-comic absurdism. I wonder what else is out there.
For now, sorry if my thoughts are all over the place. I had to crawl out of bed to write this, and now I'm going back to it. What are you gonna do?