The Man Without a Past (2002)

The large number of popular and traditional songs used in this film carry associations and text references that will largely be lost on a non-Finnish viewer—though the narrative significance of the protagonist's interest in R&B and other early American rock and roll is easily grasped.

Likewise, it is not difficult to see how the director, Aki Kaurismaki, uses music to cover the time and so organize a sequence. Music performances, whether understood diegetically as coming from a radio or played by the Salvation Army band or others, or non-diegetically as disembodied reproduced sound, articulate the time of the film by differentiating between emotionally significant and "everyday" segments.

Among quite a few possible examples, starting at about 00:27:30, consider the blues performance playing from a jukebox that the protagonist, known as "M" (Markku Peltola) acquires from a junkyard (the music is Blind Lemon Jefferson, "That Crawlin' Baby Blues"). Music overlaps into the next scene and only fades out after about a minute. Very shortly thereafter sound effects (thunder and rain) take over and also overlap into the following scene, in which the protagonist talks with Irma (Kati Outinen) for the first time. Consider how these scenes, tied together by the sound track continuities, are linked to one another narratively.



Director Aki Kaurismaki plays with conventions in a way that sets up a continuous series of ironic juxtapositions throughout this very atypical romantic comedy. A sentimental ballad in a traditional arrangement sets up false expectations: rather than finishing by tailing out under the opening scene, it is cut off abruptly near its end, and the mood so far established is no preparation for the brutal prologue scene. At the end of the beating, moreover, a triumphant passage from a Romantic symphony mocks the protagonist at least as much as the hoodlums' dropping his welder's mask over his face as they leave.
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