The Blind Man Who Did Not Want To See Titanic

****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The Blind Man Who Did Not Want To See Titanic
"Nikki has a light touch with a script that is able to see the funny side of things but which doesn't make light of the medical and societal situations that Jaakko and Sirpa are facing." | Photo: Courtesy of Venice Film Festival

Character studies don't come much more immersive than this one from Euthanizer director Teemu Nikki who puts us, at least visually, in the same boat as his lead character Jaakko (Petri Poikolainen). A complete cinephile - with the notable exception of Titanic, which he refuses to watch - his love of film has continued even though he can no longer see the images any more, after aggressive multiple sclerosis has caused him to be paralysed from the waist down and lose his sight. Now, we see the world as he does, with everything in extremely blurry shallow focus except for Jaakko himself, as he experiences life as a kind of Groundhog Day, waking from a recurrent dream in which he is running to his morning call from his long-distance, disabled friend Sirpa (Marjaana Maijala) and meds before the day passes by with punctuation from his regular phone call from dad and overheard judgemental comments about him from his neighbours. This latter element both underlines and skewers the judgemental nature many have about disability, namely that it may well be something people have 'brought upon themselves' and/or that they are somehow 'tragic' as a result.

After a year of off-and-on pandemic lockdowns, most of us have become aware of how important the sort of connection he and Sirpa have can be. They may never have met physically but their friendship is as real and vital as if they saw each other in person every day. Nikki has a light touch with a script that is able to see the funny side of things but which doesn't make light of the medical and societal situations that Jaakko and Sirpa are facing. It also offers plenty of movie sideswipes to boot, after all, where else will you hear Lassie referenced as "an Americana Jesus dog with a mullet" this year? Sirpa may only be "two taxi rides and a train" away but the trip represents a genuine challenge for wheelchair user Jaakko, especially as time is of the essence.

Jaakko's journey, which he notes will lead him to rely on the help of "five strangers", does not goes as planned but though Nikki will take the material into thriller territory, there's never less than a sense of Jaakko being capable. He may be just as scared as the next guy in the position he finds himself in but he's no more a 'victim' than any of the rest of us. This sort of skewed visual perspective has been done before - employed to a degree by films including The Diving Bell And The Butterfly and Malgorzata Szumowska's Mug - but here the focus on the central character gives it an intensity and immediacy that is heightened by detailed sound design from Sami Kiiski that helps us appreciate the world from Jaakko's point of view.

The film also benefits from the fact that its star Poikolainen - an old friend of the director's and who he specifically wrote the role for - has the same condition as his fictional character, meaning that he is able to bring life experience as well as strong acting talent to the part. An altogether warmer film than Euthanizer - as evidenced by its Audience Award win in Venice's newly established Orizzonti Extra sidebar - Nikki again shows a keen ear for black comedy, alongside an ability to generate sudden tension from almost nowhere.

Not that it's entirely relevant, but in the interests of full disclosure, at the time of writing, I haven't seen Titanic either - after watching this, I feel as though I'm in good company. What's that you say? You love that movie. Well, as Jaakko notes, "Nobody's perfect."

Reviewed on: 14 Sep 2021
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A blind man with MS encounters trouble on a day trip to visit a friend he has never met.

Director: Teemu Nikki

Writer: Teemu Nikki

Starring: Petri Poikolainen, Samuli Jaskio, Marjaana Maijala, Hannamaija Nikander, Matti Onnismaa, Rami Rusinen

Year: 2021

Runtime: 82 minutes

Country: Finland

Festivals:

Venice 2021

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The Diving Bell And The Butterfly