The 25th Sofia International Film Festival at the end of September will present a retrospective of Mika Kaurismäki’s films. In cooperation with the Finnish Film Foundation, Kaurismäki’s latest film Gracious Night will also be screened. We asked Kaurismäki to tell about his latest film and his upcoming projects. We also got to know, why Kaurismäki feels more like a film anthropologist than a mere director.
Sofia, Bulgaria is currently hosting the Sofia International Film Festival, which runs until the last day of September. Finnish film director, screenwriter and producer Mika Kaurismäki will be one of the key figures this autumn and will be presented with the Sofia Municipality Award for his work in the field of the art of cinema. In cooperation with the Finnish Film Foundation and the Finnish Embassy, a retrospective will be screened, featuring a selection of significant works from Kaurismäki’s oeuvre. The Sofia Cinema House has been screening films such as Unworthy, Three Wise Men and Tigrero – A Film That Wasn’t Made. His body of work includes more than thirty films and spans several decades and continents. Kaurismäki has told that he is more of a film anthropologist than director: “I have been curiously travelling the world and trying to see it through the camera and my films, “directing” is just one part of a more holistic process. This is also evident in the fact that I have made fiction and documentary side by side.”
The festival will also screen Kaurismäki’s latest film, Gracious Night, which is set during a pandemic that has shaken – and keeps shaking – the whole world. The film was shot in April 2020, when dystopian restrictions came into force and Uusimaa was isolated from the rest of Finland. The crisis also provides a backdrop for the events of Kaurismäki’s new film. This time, the “Three Wise Men” meet where else than in Kaurismäki’s Corona bar. Bartender Heikki (Pertti Sveholm) is offering some debrief for Risto (Kari Heiskanen), who is working as a paramedic and tries to leave behind a straining shift at work. All of the sudden, a stranger searching for a phone charger (Timo Torikka) steps in. During the gracious night, the secrets will be revealed. The virus that revolutionised the world is not one of the main characters in the film, but it sets the scene. Originally, the film was to be shot in Dubai, but restrictions dictated a new location.
“The method of this film was quite different from the conventional way of making films: there was no written screenplay – the story was built on the characters. The actors, together with the director, created their own backstories and neither the development of the narrative nor their backstories were revealed to their fellow actors. The purpose of this method was to make the atmosphere feel more real, like it was really happening. It was almost like shooting a documentary, even if everything was pure fiction. It’s a film made collectively in an exceptional way in these exceptional times,” describes Kaurismäki. His holistic approach is again present.
The film premiered last year at the Tallinn Dark Nights festival. It is produced by Kaurismäki’s Marianna Films and distributed internationally by The Yellow Affair. It is set to premiere in Finland on 8 October 2021.
Next up for Kaurismäki is “The Grump: In Search of an Escort.” The third film of the The Grump saga will take the ever-disgruntled protagonist all the way to Germany. The film, said to be a story of reconciliation and forgiveness, is being co-produced by Solar Films and German company Aspekt Telefilm. International sales are also handled by The Yellow Affair. The film will premiere in 2022. Kaurismäki describes the project: “The film I’m working on, “The Grump: In Search of an Escort.” is an exceptional project in that I’m only the director, whereas I’m usually the director, producer and one of the screenwriters. I went into the project because the story was good and I had the opportunity to work with a lot of great actors who I had never worked with before. The story is entertaining, but it also has depth, it combines joy and sadness as in real life.”
The pandemic situation has have it’s impact on the international projects of Kaurismäki but little by little the wheels are starting to turn again.
“Corona stopped, at least for a while, some of my own projects in development, but now they are slowly being relaunched, both in Finland and abroad,” tells Kaurismäki.