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Originally published August 3, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified August 3, 2007 at 2:03 AM


Movie review

More parable than film noir, "Lights in the Dusk" is dark

Helsinki, Finland, looks like the dreariest place on Earth in Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki's "Lights in the Dusk." And it's no place...

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 2.5 stars


"Lights in the Dusk," with Janne Hyytiäinen, Ilkka Koivula, Maria Järvenhelmi. Written and directed by Aki Kaurismäki.

78 minutes. Not rated; suitable for mature audiences (mild adult themes, criminals, off-screen violence). In Finnish with English subtitles.

Helsinki, Finland, looks like the dreariest place on Earth in Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki's "Lights in the Dusk." And it's no place for a sad sack like Koistinen (Janne Hyytiäinen), a night watchman for a private security company and a complete pariah to almost all.

What did Koistinen do to earn the enmity of so many? Nothing, really: He's like an adult version of the kid all the other kids despise just because, well ... because.

Humiliated by co-workers for not having a girlfriend, cruelly dismissed by a banker for inquiring about a business loan, scorned by everyone in a bar when he asks for a drink, Koistinen's burdensome lot almost looks like one of those miserable tests imposed on Old Testament figures to see what they'll do.

Things go from bad to worse when a sleek mobster (Ilkka Koivula) sends his girlfriend Mirja (Maria Järvenhelmi) to woo Koistinen while also using him to get access to a jewelry store he checks on his rounds. The villains count on not only his gullibility but his tight-lipped loyalty to Mirja even after he learns the truth.

The third entry in Kaurismäki's so-called "Loser Trilogy," "Lights in the Dusk" is more black comedy crossed with parable than film noir. Koistinen might be the victim of society or a fatalistic universe. But it's also hard to feel sorry for him when he takes Mirja to a dance and then doesn't actually dance with her, or takes the rap for a crime with which he had nothing to do.

In a way, Kaurismäki is self-consciously tapping into the raw pathos of an earlier time in cinema (the pain and loss that often accompanied Charles Chaplin's Little Tramp, for example). The idea works, though it is finally wearing.

Kaurismäki's ultimate point is that it's valid for an entire film to be spent watching a character move, albeit glacially, one degree in the direction of his full humanity. But by the time we get there, Koistinen's progress registers as something less than an epiphany.

Tom Keogh:

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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