The Man Without a Past

Rated 5.0 A middle-aged male traveler is mugged in a Helsinki park. He awakens with a bandaged head and amnesia in a hospital in a pleasurably peculiar and melancholy, doggedly deadpan fable about identity, common decency and survival at the tattered fringes of society. This anonymous pilgrim (played with perfect, understated perplexity by Markku Peltola) is befriended by a family that lives in a cluster of large railroad-car-sized shipping containers and sets up housekeeping in a metal rectangle of his own. His story of recuperation is refreshingly free of gratuitous profanity and sex. It has the simplicity of David Lynch’s The Straight Story, the picaresque sense of community of Federico Fellini’s Amarcord and the oddball character parade of Shohei Imamura’s Dr. Akagi. Humor is delivered with teasing sobriety, romance sneaks into the film on quiet moccasins, and the resurrection of the battered man’s independence and memory plays like a languid stroll through a minefield of bureaucratic red tape. The film was directed by Aki Kaurismäki and is flavored with American rock ’n’ roll and rockabilly.