Mother and son (1997) and Shadows in paradise (1986)

These past couple of weeks, I’ve had the impression of having a whole new world of genres opening up to me. In film I mean. I have noticed, as I have been told just two days ago, that whatever country the movie is made, there are some enjoyable things out there.

Tonight I have seen the beginning of “Daredevil” (which disappointed me with its too long intro into the story and the stiff, unappealing acting by Ben Affleck – why I only watched the beginning) and yesterday I saw “Shaft“. These are just … flicks. Is that the word? Purely entertainment, fast action stuff.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen many genres and am not against them at all. (I still believe Serenity should have gotten more exposure than it got.) But I’m talking about something else… for me, film is like opening up into a new world, a snapshot of a moment, witnessing. And in the following movies I got that sense.

The Russian movie “Mat i syn” (1997)(“Mother and son”), as a whole, it was not my cup of tea. The pace of the movie was something I had difficulty with. To me this movie had no beginning nor an end. You are immediately taken into the moment. The story about a mother who is dying and a very devoted son who takes care of her. Living in a harsh environment, isolated. Though in the background you hear the passing of trains, and you see ships on the far horizon from the shore. It is almost as if the son is shown possibilities to escape his cage-less prison, but he cannot leave his duty to her behind.

The imagery was flawless. The shot positions sometimes even remarkable. But these things did not make me be a whole-hearted fan of the movie. It had it merits, but did not win me over completely. What it showed me was that this Russian movie was made like a precious gem, even though everything was minimal: the music, only 2 actors, many outdoor shots and only 1 set. But it worked.

Then I saw this Finnish movie called “Varjoja paratiisissa” (1986) (“Shadows in paradise”). It was the kind of movie unlike any other I saw. It tells the story about a garbage man, Nikander (former butcher), who hasn’t got much, isn’t that much to look at and when he sees too many bottoms of glasses can give hell to anyone denying him another drink. He just saw his prospect to move up in life, die with the death of his colleague, who offered him a new job.

Nikander fancies the supermarket girl, Ilona (drifting from job to job) and asks her out to a date that ends in disaster. (His idea of a date being bingo?) But when Ilona gets the sack and has nowhere to stay, she uses his good will. Both lonely, they end up together, but Ilona isn’t that bothered by it all…

What struck me with this movie, was that the characters where very… how to put it… not that bothered with anything. With almost expressionless faces. But the story was bittersweet; focussed on the underclass, loneliness and isolation from society (like when they want to celebrate Ilona’s new job in a fancy restaurant and aren’t allowed in). But then the quirky and distant characters could express some pretty witty and funny remarks, which came as a surprise at times and gave the movie its charm.

Love was a strange thing here. And only very little you saw a smile on a face, which you would expect from lovers. But then again, Nikander and Ilona are plain, working-class, having tough lives and living with little prospects. You wouldn’t smile either.

I’m glad to find out that there are more things still to discover. That different countries have their finesse. And that even though you don’t understand the language (and have to have subtitles), you still get that universal feel from what you see and sense from the screen.