By Sascha Krieger
Toivon tuolla puolen (Competition / Finland, Germany / Director: Aki Kaurismäki)
A man leaves his wife and opens a restaurant. A Syrian refugee arrives on a coal ship. Two stories Aki Kaurismäki lets run parallel for the first half of this film. Which is a problem. The first of those stories is pure Kaurismäki: Stony, stoic faces, lightly darkish drab interiors, images as rigid and dry as his characters. The least spectacular leaving scene in film history starts a melancholy and drily funny story about people who don’t dare give up and who have hearts of gold beneath those faces of stone. Among Kaurismäki’s stories about the (sometimes not so) little man plodding on stoically to find a tiny little bit of happiness, this is an exemplary one. But there is a second one, that of Khaled from Aleppo. His narrative strand feels generic like an essay slash pamphlet about refugees caught in the mills of bureaucracy, more of a newspaper article than a film. When both strands are combined as the two men meet in a memorable scene, the film picks up speed. The driest of humour accompanies what is melancholic existential comedy meets adventure tale. it would have done the film much good to focus on these strangely easily meeting world s and leave out the bland social drama complete with a murderous Nazi gang. As it is, the film is a solid addition to Kaurismäki’s oeuvre but not more than that.