Aki Kaurismäki’s Proletariat Trilogy begins with the story of garbage collector Nikander (Matti Pellonpää) who meets grocery store cashier Ilona (Kati Outinen). Lonely Nikander lives a small and quiet life until turmoil enters his corner of paradise. Finding Ilona brings not only comfort but also torment to Nikander, who handles his emotions with actions rather than with words.
Tinted with melancholic humor this drama film is a stolid depiction of humanity and love. True to the director’s style the austere Helsinki imagery and prominent soundtrack function as canvas against which the moments above the mundane are painted.
Shadows in Paradise launched Kaurismäki’s international career at the Cannes film festival in 1988. Still going strong, Kaurismäki won the 2023 Prix du Jury with the fourth installment of the trilogy, Fallen Leaves.