Posted by Larry Gleeson.
Writer/Director Aki Kaurismaki delivered a full platter with Toivon tuolla puolen (The Other Side of Hope) during the 67th Berlin International Film Festival yesterday at the Berlinale Palast Theater. Tackling the migration and asylum bureaucratic processing issues of the day, Kaurismaki serves up a tasty whopper with The Other Side of Hope.
The film opens in the dark of night in a shipping harbor complete with fog horn blasts and heavy equipment operating including a dock loader transferring coal from ship to shore. The black, glistening bituminous coal shimmering in the light as it is being piled is magical this night. Emerging from the center of the pile a rounded shape with two spherical orbs projecting light are visible. Soon a human form emerges.
A cut is made to a businessman primping himself for what appears another day. Yet, on this day, the man has decided to leave his wife, who comes into frame with a full head of curlers, a cigarette dangling from her mouth, attired in a cheaply-made, tropical floral robe. The man places his wedding ban on the table and exits. The woman reached for a gin bottle pouring herself a double taking a mouthful to wrap up the scene.
Using these two main protagonists, Kaurismaki embarks on a story showcasing two very different lives. The business man drives a black luxury sedan to Western music while the coal refugee, takes a coin-fed shower releasing the black soot from his body. These men are on different trajectories as the refugee tries to do the right thing by finding the nearest police station to seek political sanctuary status from Aleppo. The businessman is hustling at a private gambling poker game.
Kaurismaki brings these two characters together after establishing a very practical businessman and a refugee seeking a life free from Syrian war for he and his sister. Along the way, Kaurismaki provides plenty of comic relief in this heart-warming and life-affirming tale of pragmatism and redemption. An exceptional film.
*Featured photo credit: Malla Hukkanen © Sputnik Oy