Lights In The Dusk

Lights In The Dusk


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

After Drifting Clouds and The Man Without A Past comes Lights In The Dusk, the third part of Aki Kaurismäki's trilogy looking at the lives of those at the very bottom of the social ladder.

This is the story of Koistinen, a security guard who lives an almost entirely solitary existence, working the nightshift, shunned by his workmates, living alone and finding his only conversation with the similarly lonely woman who works in the local fast food van. Koistinen gets by by convincing himself this state of affairs is only temporary. He dreams of starting his own business, diligently attending classes, but his modest hopes meet with one disappointment after another. When a group of gangsters set their sights on the building Koistinen is guarding, arranging for a glamorous young woman to appear to set her sights on him, Koistinen is easy prey.

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What marks Koistinen out from the average exploited hero is his unceasing commitment to the woman who abuses him, something which seems to stem as much from pride as from the sentimentality of which he is accused. This pride is what gives him the strength to endure all the blows life throws at him, but it is also what stops him, for most of the film, from noticing the opportunities which do exist in his life, and from accepting the human contact he desperately needs.

As with so many of Kaurismäki's characters, he is sullen and withdrawn throughout, difficult to like but, thanks to some very fine acting, surprisingly easy to care about. Though most of the story is unrelentingly grim, it's always watchable, absorbing despite its depressing atmosphere. Koistinen's unwillingness to fight back in the familiar movie ways (beautifully summed up by the soundtrack during a brief visit to the cinema) hints at a different kind of fighting back, whereby his simple continued existence makes its own bold statement. His simple aspirations and limited capacity to take control of his life are typical of an ordinary man - Kaurismäki's interest being very much in ordinary people. His learning process is a slow one, but it does happen, and it expertly draws in the viewer.

With such a grim story set in the grey wasteland of Helsinki's industrial sector, one might expect to be depressed throughout, but in fact this film is laced with the dry wit and humour typical of Kaurismäki's work. The very absurdity of the little ways in which fate conspires to make Koistinen's life more miserable is often hilarious. The director has an eye for detail which brings great depth to his minimalist landscapes and situations. It's not a film which will appeal to everyone, but patient viewing will be richly rewarded.

Reviewed on: 05 Apr 2007
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Lights In The Dusk packshot
A lonely security guard is exploited by a group of gangsters including a beautiful femme fatale.
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Director: Aki Kaurismäki

Writer: Aki Kaurismäki

Starring: Janne Hyytiäinen, Maria Heiskanen, Maria Järvenhelmi, Ilkka Koivula

Year: 2006

Runtime: 78 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: Finland, Germany, France


London 2006

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