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VENICE 2021 Orizzonti Extra

Teemu Nikki, Jani Pösö and Petri Poikolainen • Director of, producer of and actor in The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic

“We didn’t make a film about a handicapped person; we made a film about a person who also happens to be disabled”

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- VENICE 2021: The Orizzonti Extra entry focuses on a man who would do anything for love – even leave his own apartment

Teemu Nikki, Jani Pösö and Petri Poikolainen  • Director of, producer of and actor in The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic
(© La Biennale di Venezia - Foto ASAC/A Avezz)

Continuing Finnish directors’ obsession with James Cameron’s love story, also mentioned in Compartment No. 6 [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Juho Kuosmanen
film profile
]
and Metatitanic, the helmer of the Venice Orizzonti Extra title The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Teemu Nikki, Jani Pösö an…
film profile
]
, Teemu Nikki, looks at the world from a blind man’s perspective, enlisting the help of an old friend, suffering from MS, now playing a man who decides that it’s time to finally meet the woman he talks to every day. Even if it means asking some strangers for help. We talked to Nikki, producer Jani Pösö and actor Petri Poikolainen.

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Cineuropa: You made this film really quickly. At what stage did you decide how to shoot it?
Teemu Nikki:
One of the reasons why it’s shot from a blind man’s point of view is that I needed to figure out how to make a film with Petri. It would be quite difficult for him to make a “normal” film, with wide shots and close-ups. I wanted to make it as easy for him as possible. We would shoot at his place; many of the actors are his classmates from the theatre academy.

Jani Pösö: How did we figure it out? We figured it out along the way. We started doing it, learning what you could and couldn’t do. One good example is that when we realised we needed a co-producer from the area where Petri is living, we called Wacky Tie Films. They asked: “Do you have a script?” We said: “No.” And they still did it! Everyone was just so sold on that idea.

TN: Just like in every other film, I wanted to see the world the way my protagonist sees it. Understand why he does what he does. With a blind person, it was quite difficult at first, but it was important that this film wouldn’t pity Petri. We didn’t make a movie about a handicapped person; we made a film about a person who happens to be disabled. We are always on his level.

There is always this fear that stories like this will be sad. But at Venice, the audience was sold right from the point where he mentions that he stopped watching Carpenter movies when he couldn’t tell Kurt Russell from a husky.
TN:
I don’t know why people find that so funny [laughs]. I am the movie geek – I am the one who hasn’t seen Titanic, and I love Carpenter. This film only has Petri, all the time, so the dialogue needed to be light. For me, it’s easy to write about 1980s genre films. We were in a rush, so I basically wrote about myself and finished it in two weeks. Also, when it’s funny, all the heavy stuff feels even harder to bear. You go, “It’s funny,” and then, “Oh shit, don’t hit the crippled guy!” I like to surprise the audience, and I guess they are not expecting these thriller elements.

JP: When the subject is hard, it’s cool to make it entertaining, and that’s what we have always been doing with our films. Although I don’t know if anyone was actually entertained this time – they might be lying.

Did you always want only him to be in focus? You can just hear other people, or see a body part here or there.
TN:
Yes, from the beginning. When I got this idea, I realised it had to be a feature film. The audience needs some time to get used to that style. When you finally see another face, you know it’s special. We all need to be touched, to be seen. Petri, how is your hangover?

Petri Poikolainen: Fine, thank you. I like sarcasm – sarcasm and hangovers. The opening night was incredible.

You met a long time ago, didn’t you?
PP:
We met in the army – we did the reserve officers’ course.

TN: They always had this big party, and one time, we acted in a play together. I was a stone or a tree, but Petri was very good. He would make people laugh. Then we didn’t see each other for 24 years. My sister suffers from the same disease as one of the characters in the movie. She was the one who met Petri.

PP: She said how proud she was of Teemu, who has become a director. I went: “I know that guy!” In that play, I was a loony farmer whose silo was broken.

How do you go from, “Hi, it’s the loony farmer again” to “Let’s make a movie together”?
TN:
Our films always start with an idea, and an idea can come from anywhere. Petri is a trained actor, on sick leave, so I thought he might be quite cheap.

PP: I was. I contacted Teemu because I thought it would be fun to meet up again. I never dreamt a movie would come out of it. He would ask me about the script: once, he asked if I see in my dreams. I do – I was able to see for 35 years. He decided to use that. My last theatre performance was on 13 December 2011. By then, my eyesight was pretty much gone, and I thought it was the end of everything. But I decided I wouldn’t get bitter, or angry. It’s more fun to be just a normal guy. I am in a wheelchair, but I am as valuable as everyone else. And I have actually seen Titanic – when it opened in 1997. I loved it, cried until the end. I still do.

TN: Nobody’s perfect.

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