Skip to main content

Aki Kaurismäki’s Cinematic Exploration: Depicting Lives in the Margins of Materialistic Societies



Refusing to Label the Casualties of a Materialistic Society as mere “Losers,” the Pursuit for their Rightful Place Endures

This film was the beginning of a series of Kaurismäki films set in Finland, in which the poor find a place to live. Finland would later ride the wave of globalization and achieve a miraculous economic recovery, but the painful reforms would also create further disparities. “The Man Without a Past,” which depicts a community of homeless people who have lost their jobs and homes, is set against the backdrop of these changes. But even in this film, Kaurismäki stubbornly declares that there is a place for them to live. Gone is the cynical man who used to talk about social ostracization as salvation. In his film, then, those who have slipped from society still help each other, drink together, play music, and share the hope of living tomorrow.

This is also the case in “Le Havre” (2011) and “The Other Side of Hope” (2017), both of which feature immigrants as protagonists in opposition to the intolerant immigration policies that have spread across Europe (although the former is set in a French port town), and both attempt to more specifically depict the process of ordinary people helping those in a weak position. The film attempts to depict in a more concrete way the process of helping the vulnerable by the common people. The disappearance of the utopian illusion has instead allowed the humanity of the poor to stand up tougher.

Trailer for “The Other Side of Hope”

In Kaurismäki’s films, the dignity of the “losers” in capitalist society is steadfastly believed in. In the contemporary era marked by widening economic disparities and successive tragic wars, the question remains: how can one still celebrate such small things? “Fallen Leaves” embodies the renewed practice of such stubborn idealism. Perhaps that’s why he remembered where he came from, and as something that lies ahead, he created yet another film.

In this sense, Kaurismäki is a filmmaker who has always been searching for a place where the poor can live, and in the end, that “place” is in the beautiful cinematic world he creates. The characters must be literal “have-nots” in a world of materialistic values. Yet, with a pouty face, they enjoy savory music and small meals, take pride in their daily labor, and are thrilled by the romance that they encounter. What they have is a love of humanity that persists. The place where the loser ceases to be a loser – that is what Aki Kaurismäki’s films continue to be.

Fallen Leaves

Aki Kaurismäki” by Peter von Berg, translated by Keiko Morishita, published by Aiikusha.
Aki Kaurismäki” edited by Sumio Toyama, published by Esquire Magazine Japan

Fallen Leaves

On screen nationwide from December 15, 2023 (Fri.) at Eurospace and other theaters.
Running time: 81 min.
Production: 2023 (Finland=Germany)
Distribution: Eurospace
Director/Screenplay: Aki Kaurismäki
Photography: Timo Salminen
Alma Pausti
Jussi Vatanen
Janne Houtiainen
Nup Koivu

Film Festival Special Screening: Aki Kaurismäki

Saturday, December 9, 2023 – Friday, January 12, 2024
Venue:Euro Space, Tokyo
Films screened:
Crime and Punishment (1983)
Calamari Union
Shadows in Paradise
Hamlet Goes Business
Leningrad Cowboys Go America
The Match Factory Girl
I Hired a Contract Killer
The Bohemian Life
Take Care of Your Scarf, Tatiana
Total Balalaika Show
Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses
Drifting Clouds
The Man Without a Past
Lights in the Dusk
The Other Side of Hope



NiEW recommends alternative music🆕

NiEW Best Music is a playlist featuring artists leading the music scene and offering alternative styles in our rapidly evolving society. Hailing from Tokyo, the NiEW editorial team proudly curates outstanding music that transcends size, genre, and nationality.