“Lights in the Dusk”
Aki Kaurismaki is a genius and this can easily be seen in the third film of his comic deadpan trilogy, “Lights in the Dusk”. Here is the story of a handsome but lonely watchman who becomes entranced and seduced by a femme fatale who takes him down the path of crime and punishment. The film is aglow with sensibility and comedy as we look at the lives of dreamers, especially those who have fallen under a vixen’s spell. The trilogy includes “Drifting Clouds” (1996) and “The Man without a Past” (2002) and now “Lights in the Dusk”. All three films are cynical but “Lights” is by far the most cynical of the three.
A lonely security guard who is ignored by his coworkers has his life turned upside down by a woman, the ultimate tempest, and the results are deadpan humor. He is an outcast with no friends or family and he is somewhat dumb witted. He will do anything for a woman who shows interest in him. He is naïve and innocent and when he is duped by a beautiful blonde and set up in a robbery that he does not commit. His life is injustice after injustice.
The film is a comment on the descent of an individual which is the result of a an unequal society with an obviously faulty criminal system that punishes the innocent by putting a band-aid on symptoms of social ills such as the effects of imprisonment. The clerk’s life is ruined while the real criminals manage to get away with whatever they can. Hard work reaps no reward. Kaurismaki gives us a wonderfully and full bittersweet look at the existential angst of life at the bottom. It looks at an extreme Darwinian world where life is hard and short. At the end, there is a ray of light in which we see humans who care for each other but like the reality of the world, we see that it is possible to die before good happens. The hero is inarticulate and it is almost impossible to determine whether it is because of depression or dictated by a moral stance over which he has no control. Koistinen, the clerk and night watchman, refuses to identify the woman who set him up even when the result is that he will pay the price for the crime. Simultaneously he is blind to the love that the honest manager of the place where he works feels for him. We see Finnish society from the point of view of poverty as well as from the angle of obscene ostentatious wealth. Rather than stand up and defend himself, he sets himself apart from society over and over again. He is incapable of reacting and is powerless against the society that has rejected him. We get a picture of a dreamlike world that too closely resembles the world of reality.
This is an absolutely wonderful movie and never disappoints. Even though it frustrates, it is one of those movies that must be seen. The ending is amazing and leaves you with plenty to think about.