Despite being bound by the cracked demands of realism, his films always have a smooth, taut, and other-worldly surface. Contradictory, quality, nowhere more evident than in the contrast between something grisly and painful and something light and silly.
Fallen Leaves, in a clean, economic stream of images follows these two characters, their individual lives, the knocking together of them and the brief spat. As always with Kaurismäki, they come together in a sweet knot that does not feel final, yet feels resolved
In the background, as radio announcements, we can hear the escalating war of Russia in Ukraine, something Ansa keeps shutting after listening to it for a moment or two — how much falling apart of the world can a person falling apart endure?
What is this contemporary moment that Kaurismäki’s Finland is inhabiting? Timeless is, perhaps, too trite a word to describe a world so touched by the present moment, and yet hovering uneasily, gracefully, over it.
The incredibly singular and distinctive visual aesthetic — the still, staged frames bursting with hard colour and soft intention, the deadpan delivery, the minimalist furniture, the single painting on the wall, that is to tell stories of alienated people, in a crumbling city, finding love.
An image, then, from the film, of Ansa buying a plate and cutlery for Holappa’s visit, becomes emblematic of this alienation from and, simultaneously, the aspiration for companionship — that she only has one plate, one pair of cutlery at her home.