Great Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman once said that human face is the most fascinating subject possible for the camera. That is what came to my mind while I was watching Finnish film “The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic”, which won the audience award when it was shown at the Venice International Film Festival in last year. So adamantly focusing on its disabled hero’s face from the beginning to the end, the movie will make you constantly aware of his plain but unforgettable face, and you will find yourself more attentive to whatever can be glimpsed from his face – and whatever he cannot possibly see due to his deteriorating medical condition.
At the beginning, the movie lets us get accustomed to what Jaakko (Petri Pikolainen) has to deal with everyday of his isolated daily life. Due to his worsening multiple sclerosis, he already cannot move the lower part of his body anymore while having also lost most of his eyesight, and he always has to depend a lot on his caregiver who comes to his small apartment everyday. At least, he still can get up from his bed and then move his body to his wheelchair for beginning another day, and he also often has an online talk with a woman who has her own serious illness, though he cannot see her at all while only listening to her voice.
While Jaakko talks more with this woman, we get to know a bit more about him. He is your average movie fan just like me and some of you, and we later see him proudly showing her his modest collection of DVDs, though he cannot watch any of them after losing his eyesight. He turns out to be a big fan of the works of John Carpenter, and I am sure that I can have an interesting discussion with this dude mainly because I like some of Carpenter’s works while also not liking others that much (He will be furious if I say I felt rather cold to “They Live” (1988) or “The Fog” (1980), for example).
In addition, he dislikes James Cameron’s “Titanic” (1997) a lot, but it seems that he is willing to tolerate this gloriously ambitious (and humongous) Hollywood product just because, well, his woman wants to watch it along with him someday. Considering that she lives a bit far from the city where he resides, their wish looks rather improbable, but then something unexpected occurs later. Her medical condition suddenly becomes quite worse than before, and that reminds Jaakko more of how both she and he are running out of time as coping with any possibility of death day by day. In the end, he comes to decide that he must go to her residence right now for watching several movies including, yes, “Titanic” along with her, even though he has been stuck in his small residence for years without going outside at all.
At first, his impromptu plan seems to be going well for him. On the surface, all Jaakko will have to is arranging a taxi ride between his place and a local train station where he will get some help for getting on a train going to the city where she lives, and he feels excited and delighted as being taken to the local train station as planned by him.
However, of course, Jaakko soon finds himself reminded again of how vulnerable and helpless he can be as a person with disability. Yes, there are good people ready to help him as expected, but there are also bad people not hesitating to take advantage of him at all, and the mood becomes a bit more tense when our hero is subsequently cornered by two strangers at one point.
Effortlessly going back and forth between comedy and drama, the screenplay by director/writer/co-producer Teemu Niki generates some nice comic moments which will earn chuckles from any seasoned moviegoer like me. Even when things get considerably grim for him, Jaakko cannot help but become a bit sardonic about his serious circumstance as mentioning Joel and Ethan Coen’s “Fargo” (1996), and my biggest chuckle during my viewing came from when he instantly points out that Peter Stomare, who was in that shockingly memorable climax scene in “Fargo”, is not a Danish but Swedish actor.
While all these and other things happen around its hero along the story, the movie austerely sticks to his very limited viewpoint for having us understand and empathize with him more, and Nikki and his cinematographer Sari Aaltonen deliberately make almost everything around Jaakko look constantly blurry and elusive on the screen. It may take some time for you to get accustomed to this interesting visual choice reminiscent of other notable films including László Nemes’ Oscar-winning movie “Son of Saul” (2015), but Nikki and Aaltonen skillfully handle many key scenes in the film without confusing or distracting us at all, and that is the main reason why the very last shot of the film is so dramatically effective.
Above all, the movie is steadily and diligently carried by Petri Poikolainen, who has been actually struggling with multiple sclerosis for years just like his character. While all other cast members of the film stay in the blurry background, Poikolaniene’s face and body come to function as the emotional center of the film, and Nikki often lets his lead actor delve further into Jaakko’s frustration and helplessness with indelibly poignant emotional effects.
Overall, “The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic” is rather modest on the surface, but its considerable poignancy coupled with a lightweight sense of humor will leave some distinctive impression on you, and I appreciate several thoughtful touches which may be also appreciated by its potential audiences with eyesight disability. In short, this is another highlight of this year, and I sincerely urge you to check it out as soon as possible.