Ariel Review

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An redundant miner drives across Lapland in search of hope.


Spotting winners is a dangerous game, but you'd be right if you predicted that we'll be hearing more about Aki Kaurismaki - who, will shoot a film here, in English, later this year. Apparently, Aki and his brother Mika form one third of Finland's film industry. Well, the industry might be small, but it's far from insignificant as Ariel demonstrates. The title refers to a ship, which offers the hope of freedom to Taisto, the story's beleaguered protagonist, but any symbolic connections end there. Taisto's downhill slide into penury and unjust imprisonment following the closure of the mine where he works, isn't exactly a laugh a line, but its mercifully free of Nordic angst.

Ariel is a piece of gritty realism that charts the problems of unemployment and social disadvantage via a straightforward, tightly constructed account of one man's fate. Kaurismaki, who also wrote it, directs with a cool, well-paced objectivity, neatly avoiding the more obvious clichés and stereotypes to which this kind of material is prone.

Taisto is a strong, silent type whose only asset is an old convertible Cadillac, in which he crosses the snowy wastes of Lapland to seek work in the city. There he meets Irmeli, the single parent of a young son who, in her capacity as a meter maid, is ticketing the Caddy. Their subsequent relationship radically changes both their lives and, in the events that follow, Ariel subtly embraces thriller-related events, which grip the attention while never deserting the central theme.

If you're looking for glitz or escapism, this isn't for you, but if you appreciate substance, and can abandon the notion that "foreign" is obscure or boring, go see this one. It's interesting, entertaining and absorbing, and Tujo Pajala is pleasant on the eye and completely convincing.