Close Up

6 - 21 October 2017: Shadows in Paradise


Shadows in Paradise
Aki Kaurismäki
1986 | 76 min | Colour | Digital

“The first film in what would evolve into the Proletariat Trilogy (along with Ariel and The Match Factory Girl), Shadows in Paradise is a muted, understatedly atmospheric, sublimely realized, and darkly comic romantic fable. Using alternating daytime and night time shots of exterior spaces and dimly lit interiors that obscure temporal reference, Aki Kaurismäki captures the inherent monotony – and often unproductive – perpetual routines that symptomatically define the dead-end, inescapable plight and marginalization of the working class: impersonal public spaces (night class study rooms, bars, restaurants, hotels, and bingo halls) that serve as an extension to the characters' alienated existence; recurring episodes of unrealized and aborted plans (the colleague's business proposal, Ilona's impulsive act of revenge, Nikander's truncated courtship) that illustrate a pattern of disappointment and failed attempts at a better life; Ilona's history of job insecurity that mirrors the instability of her relationship with Nikander. Kaurismäki further implements visual incongruity through idiosyncratic, but subtly effective (and thematically contradictory) camerawork in order to reflect the untenability of personal fulfillment: initially, in the unexpectedly rapid zoom-out, long shot of Nikander and Ilona's kiss, then subsequently in Nikander's extreme close-up after Ilona leaves the apartment. It is this underlying elusiveness of happiness that wryly punctuates the seemingly idyllic parting image of the film: a glimpse of reconciliation and a new beginning amid the obscuring sight of a fog-laden horizon under ominously dark clouds, drifting sluggishly, but inalterably into the strangely familiar unknown.” – Acquarello
Part one of the Proletariat Trilogy, screening as part of our Aki Kaurismäki season