Shadows in Paradise was the first chapter of the ‘Proletariat Trilogy’, Aki Kaurismaki’s droll and darkly funny exploration of the lives of Finland’s working class. Though crisp to the point of being brief in terms of length, the film was nonetheless a delectable yet quietly poignant romantic comedy on two people who have never seen nor aspired for better days. The principal protagonist of the story is Nikander (Matti Pellonpää), a soft-spoken and socially inept garbage truck driver, who spends his free time attending English classes or drinking alone. The person closest to him happened to be his fellow truck-driver who he rarely conversed with, and when he suddenly dies, he befriends a hard-drinking man he meets in jail and gets appointed as his fellow trucker. Meanwhile, he is also silently in love with Ilona (Kati Outinen), the cashier in the supermarket he buys his stuffs from. Finally he finds the courage to ask her out, but their first date ends on a comically disastrous note for him. However, she slowly starts reciprocating his feelings, particularly after she loses her job for no fault of his. Through this rather simple premise Kaurismaki succeeded in brilliantly portraying tragically lonely people innately at odds with the world around them and simply going through the motions in their unspectacular lives. He also painted a bleak but whimsical picture of working class Finnish society with all their disillusions and alienation, albeit in an incredibly muted and understated manner, and with dry wit, sparse conversations and excellent soundtrack, highly reminiscent of Jarmusch's films. Pellonpää gave a particularly stellar performance as the dour and clumsy protagonist.
Director: Aki Kaurismaki
Genre: Comedy/Romantic Comedy/Urban Comedy/Black Comedy/Social Satire/Buddy Film