The Man Without a Past

I started watching this film three times. Half an hour into the third time, I noticed something odd. A quick look at the DVD box confirmed my suspicions: this is a comedy.

A man takes the train to the big city, where he gets mugged by thugs. They leave him to die in a puddle of his own blood, but he miraculously survives. But he loses his memory in the process of being mugged. The movie explores how he tries to build a new life for himself, something that is hindered by the fact that modern society requires you to have a registered identity. The MWAP doesn’t seem to let modern society get in his way too much.

The film is very slow paced, even for European standards. The humor is mostly absurdist:

MWAP: I went to the moon.

Irma: How was it?

MWAP: There was no-one there. It was a Sunday.

Irma: Why did you come back?

MWAP: I had things to do.

The director’s introduction on the DVD box might give you some insight too (warning, translation of a translation):

My last film was in black and white, and without sound. This made clear I meant business. Had I continued along that track, my next project would have required me to skip the movie itself. What would have been left; a shadow. Therefore, always ready to compromise, I decided to add dialogue, and colour to this film, and other commercial values.

I must admit that subconsciously I had hoped that taking this step would make me seem normal too. Hopefully my social, economical and political view on the state of society, on morality and on love are clear from this movie.

Screen capture: the new home of the Man Without a Past.

Perhaps the most striking thing about The Man Without A Past is its styling. The director and his team went to great lengths to make a pretty movie. This is important, because this is the sort of film where you’ll be looking at the scenery, waiting for the story to continue. In this respect you can compare it to road movies, although the MWAP stays firmly in one place. A city’s dock-, wet-, and brownlands are capable of producing their own vistas.

Lucky for me; I agreed with the makers about what is pretty, and what is good. Tip: before you rent or watch this film, view some screenshots or trailers.

The Man Without a Past (orig. Mies vailla menneisyyttä, 2002) by Aki Kaurismäki, 6/10

Review of The Man Without a Past published on Oct 27, 2006 by Branko Collin.

Paul Biegel died

Last week Paul Biegel died at the age of 81. He was and is my favourite Dutch author. He is mainly known for his children’s books, but luckily he was one of those authors that don’t talk down to their audience. Perhaps his biggest gift was that he could make the mystical exciting.

In “De vloek van Woestewolf” (The Curse of Wildwolfe) a doctor travels into the subconsciousness of a man possessed by greed; in that world, gold has turned the man into a werewolf. But the doctor is down-to-earth, and will not be turned from his path. In “De twaalf rovers” (The Twelve Robbers), eleven robbers are sent one by one from their cave to go to the capital and capture the king’s treasure. When the last and twelfth is sent, he finds out that the other eleven have been caught in a web of conformity; they have become farmers, servants, and one even palace guard, and have forgotten almost all about being a robber.

Don’t ask me how these stories end. The mystical and the real will probably be disentangled, but hopefully not completely. With Biegel, the journey was important too.

Only a few of Biegel’s books have been translated, but some of his greatest among them: The Gardens of Dorr, The Little Captain, and The King of the Copper Mountains.