Aki Kaurismäki

Aki Olavi Kaurismäki (Finnish: [ˈɑki ˈkɑurismæki] (listen); born 4 April 1957) is a Finnish screenwriter and film director. He is described as Finland's best-known film director.[1]

Aki Kaurismäki
Aki Kaurismäki at Berlinale 2017
Aki Kaurismäki at the 2017 Berlin Film Festival
Aki Olavi Kaurismäki

4 April 1957 (age 61)
OccupationFilm director, producer, editor and screenwriter
AwardsSilver Bear
2016 The Other Side of Hope
Cannes Grand Prix
2002 The Man Without a Past
Cannes Ecumenical Jury Special Mention
1996 Drifting Clouds
Cannes Prize of the Ecumenical Jury
2002 The Man Without a Past
2011 Le Havre
Jussi for Best Film
2006 Lights in the Dusk
Jussi for Best Debut Film
1983 Crime and Punishment
Jussi for Best Script
1983 Crime and Punishment
1996 Drifting Clouds
2002 The Man Without a Past
2011 Le Havre
Jussi for Best Direction
1990 The Match Factory Girl
1992 La vie de bohème
1996 Drifting Clouds
2002 The Man Without a Past
São Paulo Audience Award for Best Feature
1996 Drifting Clouds


After graduating in media studies from the University of Tampere, Aki Kaurismäki started his career as a co-screenwriter and actor in films made by his older brother, Mika Kaurismäki. He played the main role in Mika's film The Liar (1981). Together they founded the production company Villealfa Filmproductions and later the Midnight Sun Film Festival. His debut as an independent director was Crime and Punishment (1983), an adaptation of Dostoyevsky's novel set in modern Helsinki. He gained worldwide attention with Leningrad Cowboys Go America (1989). In 1989 he emigrated with his wife to Portugal, saying "in all of Helsinki there is no place left where I could place my camera".[2]

Aki Kaurismäki
Aki Kaurismäki in 2012


Kaurismäki is known for his extremely minimalistic style. He has been called an auteur,[3][4] since he writes, directs, produces and usually edits the films himself, and thus introduces his personal "drollery and deadpan"[5] style. The dialogue is famously laconic: the articulation is usually extremely unadorned, direct and in strict standard language, without showing much emotion or drama. Characters usually stand still and recite the dialogue like it consisted of eternal truths. His characters rarely smile, nod sadly and usually expect the worst, and often smoke constantly. The camera is usually still.[6] Events are shown in a plain manner and characters are usually left alone facing the consequences. However, despite their tragedies and setbacks, the characters don't give up and eventually survive.[4]

Much of Kaurismäki's work is centred on Helsinki, such as the film Calamari Union, the Proletariat trilogy (Shadows in Paradise, Ariel and The Match Factory Girl) and the Finland trilogy (Drifting Clouds, The Man Without a Past and Lights in the Dusk). His vision of Helsinki is critical and singularly unromantic. Indeed, his characters often speak about how they wish to get away from Helsinki. Some end up in Mexico (Ariel), others in Estonia (Shadows in Paradise, Calamari Union, and Take Care of Your Scarf, Tatjana). Kaurismäki also uses, on purpose, characters, elements and settings that hark back to the 1960s and 1970s.[4]

Kaurismäki has been influenced by the French directors Jean-Pierre Melville and Robert Bresson, the Japanese director Yasujirō Ozu and some critics have also inferred the influence of Rainer Werner Fassbinder. His movies have a humorous side that can also be seen in the films of Jim Jarmusch, who has a cameo in Kaurismäki's film Leningrad Cowboys Go America. Jarmusch used actors who have appeared frequently in Kaurismäki's films in his own film Night on Earth, part of which takes place in Helsinki.

Kaurismäki has been a vocal critic of digital cinematography, calling it "a devil's invention"[7] and saying he "won't make a digital film in this life".[8] In March 2014, however, he reconciled, saying that "in order to maintain my humble film oeuvre accessible to a potential audience, I have ended up in rendering it to digital in all its present and several of its as yet unknown forms."[7]

Awards and protests

Kaurismäki's film Ariel (1988) was entered into the 16th Moscow International Film Festival where it won the Prix FIPRESCI.[9]

Kaurismäki's most acclaimed film has been The Man Without a Past, which won the Grand Prix and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival[10] and was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Foreign Language Film category in 2003. However, Kaurismäki refused to attend the Oscar ceremony, asserting that he did not feel like partying in a country that was in a state of war. Kaurismäki's next film Lights in the Dusk was also chosen to be Finland's nominee for best foreign-language film, but Kaurismäki again boycotted the awards and refused the nomination, in what he claimed was a protest against U.S. President George W. Bush's foreign policy. In 2002 Kaurismäki also boycotted the 40th New York Film Festival in a show of solidarity with the Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, who was not given a US visa in time for the festival.[11]

Kaurismäki's 2017 film The Other Side of Hope won the Silver Bear for Best Director award at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival.[12] At the same festival he also announced that it would be his last film as a director.[13]


Feature films


Short films

  • Rocky VI, 1986 (8 min)
  • Thru the Wire, 1987 (6 min)
  • Rich Little Bitch, 1987 (6 min)
  • L.A. Woman, 1987 (5 min)
  • Those Were The Days, 1991 (5 min)
  • These Boots, 1992 (5 min)
  • Oo aina ihminen, 1995 (5 min)
  • Välittäjä, 1996 (4 min)
  • Dogs Have No Hell, 2002 (10 minute episode in the collaborative film Ten Minutes Older - The Trumpet)
  • Bico, 2004 (5 minute episode in the collaborative film Visions of Europe)
  • The Foundry, 2006 (3 minute episode in the collaborative film To Each His Own Cinema)
  • Tavern Man, 2012 (14 minute episode in the collaborative film Centro Histórico)

As an actor

See also


  1. ^ C.G. (11 October 2017). "Explaining the Finnish love of tango". The Economist.
  2. ^ Ralph Eue and Linda Söffker (eds.): Aki Kaurismäki (film: 13). Bertz + Fischer Verlag 2006. Pp. 188-191 (German)
  3. ^ Andrew Nestingen (June 2013). The Cinema of Aki Kaurismäki: Contrarian Stories. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-85041-4.
  4. ^ a b c http://www.filmgoer.fi/artikkelit/kaurismaki.html
  5. ^ Peter Bradshaw (5 April 2012). "Le Havre – review". The Guardian.
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger, The Man Without A Past, Chicago Sun-Times, 27.6.2003. http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20030627/REVIEWS/306270306/1023
  7. ^ a b "Aki Kaurismäki Crosses the Digital Rubicon". Antti Alanen: Film Diary. 28 March 2014. Retrieved 28 March 2014.
  8. ^ ""I am a filmmaker not a pixelmaker" - An interview with Aki Kaurismäki". Phil on Film. 2 April 2012. Retrieved 28 March 2014.
  9. ^ "16th Moscow International Film Festival (1989)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 2013-03-16. Retrieved 2013-02-24.
  10. ^ "Festival de Cannes: The Man Without a Past". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-10-25.
  11. ^ Bohlen, Celestine (2002-10-01). "One Visa Problem Costs a Festival Two Filmmakers". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-09-05.
  12. ^ Roxborough, Scott (18 February 2017). "Berlin: Aki Kaurismaki Wins Best Director for 'The Other Side of Hope'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 21 February 2017.
  13. ^ "Legendary filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki: There will be no more films". Yle Uutiset. 16 February 2017. Retrieved 21 February 2017.
  14. ^ "Match Factory picks up Kaurismäki’s Le Havre"
  15. ^ "Aki Kaurismaki’s Next Film ‘The Other Side Of Hope’ Gearing Up"


  • Roger Connah K/K: A Couple of Finns and Some Donald Ducks: Cinema and Society. VAPK Pub., Helsinki, 1991
  • Ródenas, Gabri (2008), "The Poetry of Silence" in [1], Orimattila Town Library.
  • Pilar Carrera: "El cineasta que vino del frío (Bico-Visión)" ("The moviemaker who came in from the cold"): [2]

External links

Ariel (film)

Ariel is a 1988 Finnish drama film directed and written by Aki Kaurismäki. The film tells the story of Taisto Kasurinen (Turo Pajala), a Finnish coal miner who must find a way to live in the big city after the mine closes.

Taisto's friend is played by Matti Pellonpää, an actor who appeared in many of Kaurismäki's early films, before his death in 1995.

This is the second film in Kaurismäki's Proletariat Trilogy (Shadows in Paradise, Ariel, and The Match Factory Girl). The trilogy has been released on Region One DVD by Criterion, in their Eclipse box-sets. The film is included in the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list. The film was entered into the 16th Moscow International Film Festival where Turo Pajala won the Bronze St. George for Best Actor.

Calamari Union

Calamari Union is a 1985 Finnish surreal comedy film, the second full-length film by the director Aki Kaurismäki.

Crime and Punishment (1983 film)

Crime and Punishment (Finnish: Rikos ja rangaistus) is a 1983 film directed by Aki Kaurismäki. It is the first full-length film by Kaurismäki which is based on Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel of the same name, Crime and Punishment. The main character in the film is called Rahikainen.

In 1984, it received two Jussi Awards: for the best début film and for the best script.

Drifting Clouds (film)

Drifting Clouds (Finnish: Kauas pilvet karkaavat) is a 1996 Finnish film edited, written, produced, and directed by Aki Kaurismäki and starring Kati Outinen, Kari Väänänen and Markku Peltola. The film is the first in Kaurismäki's Finland trilogy, the other 2 films being The Man Without a Past and Lights in the Dusk. The film was selected as the Finnish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 69th Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.

Hamlet Goes Business

Hamlet Goes Business (Finnish: Hamlet liikemaailmassa) is a 1987 Finnish comedy film directed by Aki Kaurismäki and starring Pirkka-Pekka Petelius.

I Hired a Contract Killer

I Hired a Contract Killer is a film directed, produced and written by the Finnish auteur Aki Kaurismäki in 1990. It is a Finnish-British-German-Swedish co-production and stars the renowned French actor Jean-Pierre Léaud. The film also features cameo appearances by Joe Strummer as a guitar player and by Kaurismäki as a sunglasses salesman.

Juha (1999 film)

Juha is a 1999 Finnish film produced, written, and directed by Aki Kaurismäki. The film is loosely based on a famous 1911 novel by the Finnish author Juhani Aho marking this as the fourth time the novel was adapted for the screen. The original story takes place in the 18th century but Kaurismäki's remake is set in the 1970s. It tells the story of a love triangle where a simple peasant woman leaves her husband after falling in love with a modern city slicker. Juha is a silent film shot in black-and-white with the dialogue coming in the form of intertitles. Special release prints with titles in several different languages were produced for international distribution.

La Vie de Bohème (1992 film)

La Vie de Bohème (Finnish: Boheemielämää) is a 1992 film directed by Aki Kaurismäki and starring Matti Pellonpää, Évelyne Didi and André Wilms. Kaurismäki's screenplay for the film was loosely based on Henri Murger's influential novel Scènes de la Vie de Bohème which has spawned several on-screen adaptations as well as plays and operas, the most notable one being Giacomo Puccini's La bohème.

The film was a critical success earning several awards. FIPRESCI awarded the film the Forum of New Cinema award at the 1992 Berlin International Film Festival. At the 1992 European Film Awards, Matti Pellonpää and André Wilms were awarded the Best European Actor and Best Supporting Actor respectively while Évelyne Didi was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress and the film was nominated for the Best Film Award. Kaurismäki won the Best Director award at the 1993 Jussi Awards. Le Havre (2011) is a follow-up movie to La vie de Bohème having many of the same actors 19 years older.

Le Havre (film)

Le Havre is a 2011 comedy-drama film produced, written, and directed by Aki Kaurismäki and starring André Wilms, Kati Outinen, Jean-Pierre Darroussin and Blondin Miguel. It tells the story of a shoeshiner who tries to save an immigrant child in the French port city Le Havre. The film was produced by Kaurismäki's Finnish company Sputnik with international co-producers in France and Germany. It is Kaurismäki's second French-language film, after La Vie de Bohème from 1992.

The film premiered in competition at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, where it received the FIPRESCI Prize. Kaurismäki envisions it as the first installment in a trilogy about life in port cities. His ambition is to make follow-ups set in Spain and Germany, shot in the local languages.

Leningrad Cowboys Go America

Leningrad Cowboys Go America is a 1989 road movie by Finnish film director Aki Kaurismäki about the adventures of a fictional Russian rock band (Leningrad Cowboys, consisting of members from the Finnish rock band the Sleepy Sleepers, augmented with additional musicians) that travels to the United States to become famous. The title came from the Marx Brothers film Go West (1940). After the film was released, the fictional band transformed into a real band, complete with ludicrous hairstyles.

Leningrad Cowboys Go America was followed five years later by a sequel, Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses (1994) and a concert film Total Balalaika Show (1994).

The film was reissued on DVD in October 2011, as part of the Criterion Collection's Eclipse series, paired with the other two Leningrad Cowboys films.

Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses

Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses is a 1994 film directed by Aki Kaurismäki. It is a sequel to the popular 1989 film Leningrad Cowboys Go America that introduced the fictional Russian rock band Leningrad Cowboys which, subsequently, became a notable real life rock band in Finland.

List of Jussi Award winners for Best Finnish Film

Jussi Award for Best Finnish Film is an award presented annually at the Jussi Awards by Filmiaura, a Finnish film organization founded in 1962. The 1st Jussi Awards ceremony was held in 1944, but the award for Best Film was introduced in 1986 at the 41st Jussi Awards where Shadows in Paradise won the first award. The category was absent for the next five years but the award was presented again at the 47th Jussi Awards, and has since been presented annually.The Best Film award was presented to the awarded film's director, producer and the production company (with the exception of 1986) until 2008. Since 2008 the award has been given to the film's producer only.

Rocky VI (1986 film)

Rocky VI is a 1986 nine-minute black-and-white short parody of Rocky IV by Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki. The film stars Antti Juhani "Silu" Seppälä (Leningrad Cowboys) as Rocky and Sakari Kuosmanen as Igor, his Soviet opponent. In the film, the two boxers fight at Töölö Sports Hall in Helsinki. The much bigger Igor quickly knocks out Rocky and wins the match.Rocky VI is still shown at many film festivals. In 2004, the film was screened at Finále Plzeň in Czech Republic and at Xèntric at the Center of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona in Spain. In 2007, the film was screened at Tampere Film Festival as part of a Kaurismäki retrospective.In the title, the letter VI does not actually represent number six, but an inverted IV, of Rocky IV, the specific film parodied. The fifth film in the Rocky series, Rocky V, was released almost four years after this parody. The sixth Rocky film, Rocky Balboa, was released 20 years after Rocky VI.

Shadows in Paradise

Shadows in Paradise (Finnish: Varjoja paratiisissa) is a 1986 Finnish art house comedy-drama film written and directed by Aki Kaurismäki. The film stars Kati Outinen as Ilona and Matti Pellonpää as Nikander. Ilona is a supermarket check-out clerk who meets Nikander, a lonely garbage man, and they develop romantic feelings towards each other.

Shadows in Paradise was awarded the Best Film award at the 1987 Jussi Awards.This is the first film in Kaurismäki's Proletariat Trilogy (Shadows in Paradise, Ariel, and The Match Factory Girl). The trilogy has been released on Region One DVD by Criterion, in their Eclipse box-sets, and on region-free Blu-ray discs by Future Film in Scandinavia.

Take Care of Your Scarf, Tatiana

Take Care of Your Scarf, Tatiana (Finnish: Pidä huivista kiinni, Tatjana), also translated as Take Care of Your Scarf, Tatjana, is a 1994 Finnish/German film directed, produced and co-written by Aki Kaurismäki. The film tells the story of two shy and unaccomplished middle-aged men who run away from their mothers' homes and drive aimlessly on the back roads of Finland.

The Man Without a Past

The Man Without a Past (Finnish: Mies vailla menneisyyttä) is a 2002 Finnish comedy-drama film produced, written, and directed by Aki Kaurismäki. Starring Markku Peltola, Kati Outinen and Juhani Niemelä, it is the second installment in Kaurismäki's Finland trilogy, the other two films being Drifting Clouds (1996) and Lights in the Dusk (2006). The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2002 and won the Grand Prix at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival.

The Match Factory Girl

The Match Factory Girl (Finnish: Tulitikkutehtaan tyttö) is a 1990 Finnish-Swedish film edited, written, co-produced, and directed by Aki Kaurismäki, the final installment of his Proletariat Trilogy, after his Shadows in Paradise and Ariel. It follows Iris, a young, plain-looking factory worker living a lonely, impoverished and uneventful life in late 1980s Finland. Iris is played by Kati Outinen, who had appeared in a number of other Kaurismäki films.

The Other Side of Hope

The Other Side of Hope (Finnish: Toivon tuolla puolen) is a 2017 Finnish comedy-drama film written, produced, and directed by Aki Kaurismäki. The film was produced by Kaurismäki's Finnish company Sputnik. In December 2016, it was selected to play in competition at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival. The story is about a Finnish businessman who meets a Syrian asylum-seeker looking for his missing sister. Kaurismäki has noted that this film will be his last as a director.

Total Balalaika Show

Total Balalaika Show is a 1994 film by director Aki Kaurismäki featuring a concert by the Leningrad Cowboys and the Alexandrov Ensemble.

The concert took place on 12 June 1993 on Senate Square in Helsinki, Finland. The event drew a crowd of approximately 70,000 people from two nations – Finland and Russia – that had been engaged in a state of "peaceful coexistence" during the Cold War.

The concert featured an eclectic mix of Western rock and Russian folk music, and folk dancers performing to rock songs.

Total Balalaika Show was a critical success, scoring a 77% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

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