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Kuosmanen & Haji | The Other Side of Hope

«The Other Side of Hope» is the story of a friendship, aimed at an interethnic European community, which is portrayed as a realist and believable project. Filmexplorer was able to meet the actors Sakari Kuosmanen and Sherwan Haji in Geneva, who are now two inseparable friends.

[…] It is as if Kaurismäki’s entire world, of which Kuosmanen is the mythical spokesman, hosts the world of all refugees, through its Syrian representative; a logical move for Kaurismäki, who has always paid a great deal of attention to the social outcasts.

[…] The main force behind «The Other Side of Hope» is the absolute credibility of Wikström’s human solidarity. Solidarity does not mean removing the cultural differences, or even some prejudices.

Aki Kaurismäki’s films have always fluctuated between humour and despair, finally grasping a melancholic spleen. The Other Side of Hope is no exception, even if we have the impression that the theme of refugees – already present in his previous Le Havre – is bringing a new “constructive” humanist wind to his films. In fact, a form of humanism has always emerged in his minimalist style that, through melancholy, brings out a specific nakedness of the human being.

I would like to think that the other side of hope is not the opposite of hope, but that it is just what comes with hope, what is behind hope, or the price one pays daring to hope. The price to pay is essentially the propensity to change and to accept what risks that may imply – a change that is taken freely in the case of Wikström, and that is the consequence of tragedy in the case of Khaled. Despair may be the only common thread for the new friendship between Wikström and Khaled. In Geneva we discovered that this friendship is now a strong and real friendship between the two actors Sakari Kuosmanen and Sherwan Haji. It is as if Kaurismäki’s entire world, of which Kuosmanen is the mythical spokesman, hosts the world of all refugees, through its Syrian representative; a logical move for Kaurismäki, who has always paid a great deal of attention to the social outcasts.

The simplicity of the plot has the effect of stressing the main theme of the movie, but the humanism of The Other Side of Hope is never rhetorical; one should distinguish the sheer humanity that is at stake in this movie from a programmatic and ideological humanism, of which we find no trace here. The main force behind The Other Side of Hope is the absolute credibility of Wikström’s human solidarity. Solidarity does not mean removing the cultural differences, or even some prejudices. The strengths of good values come together with the weaknesses of human beings, drawing a more complex and real social landscape.

Yes, the new element in Kaurismäki’s filmmaking probably involves a certain degree of complexity. The Other Side of Hope shows many characters in different social layers, and it is enriched with a documentary-like touch. If Kaursimäki’s known recipe of framing, timing, and dialogues still guarantees his typical contemplative mood, this movie provides more action than usual and the fundamental presence of music, which constitutes a sort of further character, or set of characters, in the movie.

Is there also a specifically Finnish challenge in The Other Side of Hope? I would tend to say yes. In the year in which Finland celebrates its hundred years of independence, one should remember that Kaursimäki’s filmic and “cultural” boom in the Eighties went together with an alternative movement in Finland, reacting against a top-down national project that, during the long presidency of Urho Kekkonen, was consecrated to “the creation of Finnish identity”. Now that Kaurismäki’s world and style has definitely become part of the Finnish identity – at least from the European perspective – his discourse of building an interethnic community sounds like a new way to challenge the (probably fake) question of Finnish identity – and of national identities in general.

Text: Giuseppe Di Salvatore | Audio/Video: Ruth Baettig
First published: March 17, 2017

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