Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Zombie and the Ghost Train [1991]

Before Aki Kaurismaki came on his own and became the face of Finnish cinema, his elder brother Mika had already been a filmmaker of reasonable repute, only to be superseded by his younger sibling in whose launch, in a subtle note of wry irony worthy of a Kaurismaki, he had a strong hand. With its droll, deadpan and darkly humorous tale of laconic and ‘outsider’ protagonists, with a cold, wan and gloomy Helsinki forming the backdrop, Zombie and the Ghost Train, which was also Mika’s first independent production. The film tells the tale of its aptly named protagonist Zombie (Silu Seppälä), a rickety, drifting, self-destructive and music-loving guy, who doesn’t have the aptitude or inclination of leading the life of a regular Joe. He’s neither a rebel nor a non-conformist – he’s a classic elucidation of a slacker who just can’t be anyone but himself. He’s tried his hand at a number of regular professions, but to no avail. There are just two things he loves doing – playing music and drinking, and not necessarily in that order; hence, despite the best efforts of his girlfriend Marjo (Marjo Leinonen) and his best friend Harri (Matti Pellonpää), who leads a curiously titled pop-band Mulefukkers Zombie. Harri even goes as far as Istanbul to bring back Zombie who’s on a self-exile, but he’s so far down the bottle and barrel by now that both silently acknowledge to each other that he’s just beyond any hope for redemption or salvation. Despite its hilarious interludes, idiosyncratic developments and a few touches of sentimentality, the film was poignant and relentlessly downbeat with its heavy dose of alcoholism, extreme social alienation and a seemingly unstoppable march towards self-ruination.

Director: Mika Kaurismaki
Genre: Black Comedy/Urban Drama
Language: Finnish/Turkish/English
Country: Finland

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