Archive of films The Man Without a Past / Mies vailla menneisyyttä

2002, 97 min

Section: Horizons - Awarded Films
Year: 2002

What happens to a man who has learned to live without a past when his family turns up one day to confirm that he is someone he doesn’t want to be? Aki Kaurismäki solves this problem with humour and compassion, in a style and spirit reminiscent of his film Drifting Clouds (whose cast we encounter once more in The Man Without a Past). The film won the Grand Jury Prize and Best Actress for Kati Outinen at Cannes this year.


A man with a travel bag arrives in a city, he gets off the train, but before he reaches his destination, he is attacked, beaten unconscious and robbed. The man vacillates between life and death but, thanks to the care of two tramps, he recovers after a time but has lost his memory. He doesn’t know his own name, where he came from nor who he is, nevertheless he displays a presence of mind which not only impresses his new homeless friends but also the rather plain, mature Salvation Army officer Irma. After being turned away from the labour office for having no name or documents, he starts helping out at the Salvation Army office. He gets to know Irma and also discovers the army’s band which, under his guidance, whips up a new repertoire from scratch and attracts a new following. After a conflict with the police, who publish a photograph of the unknown man, the stranger’s past makes itself known. What is he to do now that he has built up a new identity and is happy with his new life? The film was awarded the Grand Jury Prize this year at Cannes, and Kati Outinen, who plays Irma, won Best Actress.

About the director

Aki Kaurismäki (b. 1957 Orimattila, Finland) began as a postman, dishwasher, film critic, screenwriter and appeared in films by his brother Mika. Together they made the documentary Journey Across Saimi (1981, Saimaa llmio) and founded the production company Villealfa. Apart from several shorts, he has made a number of feature films: Crime and Punishment (1983, Rikos ja rangaistud), Calamari Union (1985), Shadows in Paradise (1986, Varjoja paratiisissa), Hamlet Gets Business (1987, Hamlet likem ailmassa), Ariel (1988), Leningrad Cowboys Go to America (1989) The Match-Factory Girl (1990, Ulitikkutehtaan), I Hired a Contract Killer (1990), Bohemian Life (La vie de boheme, 1992), Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses (1993), Total Balalaika Show (1993), Take Care of Your Scarf, Tatiana (1994, Pida huivista kinni, Tatjana), Drifting Clouds (Kauas pilvet karkaavat).

About the film

Black & white, 35 mm

Section: Horizons - Awarded Films
Director: Aki Kaurismäki
Screenplay: Aki Kaurismäki
Dir. of Photography: Timo Salminen
Editor: Timo Linnasalo
Producer: Aki Kaurismäki
Production: Sputnik Oy, Pandora Film, Pyramide Productions
Cast: Markku Peltola, Kati Outinen, Juhani Niemelä, Kaija Pakarinen, Sakari Kousmanen, Annikki Tähti

© 2021 FILM SERVIS FESTIVAL KARLOVY VARY, a.s. +420 221 411 011 All contacts

CinemasCinemas PartnersPartners
ProgramProgram About the projectAbout the project
HistoryHistory GalleryGallery
HistoryHistory ContactsContacts
Archive of filmsArchive of films KVIFF TalksKVIFF Talks
Industry Days July 5 - July 8Industry Days July 5 - July 8 ContactsContacts
VideogalleryVideogallery GalleryGallery
HistoryHistory Festival GuideFestival Guide