Thursday 14 February 2013

The Match Factory Girl [1990]

The Match Factory Girl, the final chapter in Kaurismaki’s “Proletariat Trilogy”, wasn’t just the best of the lot, it was also quite easily the darkest and the most disturbing. Whereas in the earlier two films the principal protagonists sailed into potentially happy endings, the fate met by the one here – both socially and psychologically – was devastatingly bleak. The film begins with the detailed display of the manufacture of match sticks in a Helsinki plant, perhaps to prepare us for the life of Iris (Kati Outinen), the dour and soft-spoken lady working there, is equally rote and bereft of emotional connect. In fact, the director furthered the point by keeping the first 15 minutes or so completely devoid of any conversations, leave alone dramatic developments. Iris, as we are eventually apprised, lives in a world (be it familial, workplace or social) that is incredibly cold. Hence, when this severely lonely lady, hungry for companionship, finally meets a man after spending many hours at bars for that purpose, she feels a glimmer of hope despite being taken for a prostitute. Nonetheless she dispels that notion and attempts to build something deep with him. When this too ends in utter dispair, the effect that it has on her, and in turn those around her, is heartbreakingly tragic, and made unforgettable on account of the tar black humour. Outinen gave a memorably deadpan performance with subtle displays of her fragility and isolation, thus making the finale all the more affecting. Kaurismaki’s use of long stretches of silence was exquisite in evoking of the dismal mood, growing existential crisis and the social environ.

Director: Aki Kaurismaki
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Black Comedy/Social Satire
Language: Finnish
Country: Finland


Jon said...

Sorry I missed this review Shubhajit I am late to the party here. Absolutely spot on. I think it's a masterpiece and spectacular in every way. Completely affecting a dark comedy (maybe the darkest I've ever seen) and tragedy. Outinen is fantastic. I underrated it upon my previous viewing but it has stuck with me for the last couple years and I believe it's a near perfect film. Glad you saw it so.

Shubhajit said...

Thanks a lot Jon for sharing your love for this wonderful film. I'm glad you did that. Yeah, Outinen was fantastic in it. The way Kaurismaki built up the narrative, with all the drab details and gloomy atmosphere, made the finale, when Iris finally goes off the hook, quite unforgettable. And, unlike the other two films in the trilogy, which were drily comical throughout, he preserved it for the end here - thus making its humour appear that much more tar black.