Review: The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic
by David Katz
- VENICE 2021: You may want to see this dark, sweet and humorous film from Finnish genre director Teemu Nikki, in contrast to the views of its DiCaprio-phobic protagonist
Given that for many years, James Cameron’s Titanic held the record for the all-time highest-grossing film at the global box office, the lead character in The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic [+see also:
interview: Teemu Nikki, Jani Pösö an…
film profile] might be one of the few movie lovers in the world not to have purchased a ticket in far-off 1997. His obstinateness is amusing, interesting and maybe self-defeating (it doesn’t embarrass Cameron’s filmography, as he vocally worries throughout the film – that’s what True Lies does). This fine film, from rising Finnish genre movie specialist Teemu Nikki, has just world-premiered at this year’s Venice Film Festival, in the newly established Orizzonti Extra section. It garnered the Audience Award, something predictable, when, at this reviewer’s screening, it received one of the warmest rounds of applause of the fortnight.
The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic also belongs to a generation of films with a far more progressive and just attitude towards disability; for instance, not seeing it as a damaging affliction, defined by lacking the privileges of able-bodied people. To paraphrase Nikki’s recent statements, it’s a film focusing on a protagonist who just happened to be disabled, and not a mawkish or patronising statement on disability. Not only that, but cast in the lead role of Jaakko is an MS sufferer (the disease causes the character’s blindness in the film), Petri Poikolainen, an old friend of the director’s. Beyond other considerations, this also reflects the increasingly outmoded idea that able-bodied actors should be first in line to play characters with disabilities – such as in the case of an actor like Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything [+see also:
film profile], where plaudits are gained for the accuracy of the simulation.
It’s a quest narrative really, classically structured. We establish Jaakko’s life in his DVD-lined apartment, give him a strong rapport with a supporting character – a kind, also sight-impaired woman called Sirpa (Marjaana Maijala), whom he met online – and devise a goal (to meet her) and an obstacle to set the plot on its course. Its sense of humour is also a blessing – the helmer fills the film to the brim with dry jokes and comebacks (“When I couldn’t tell Kurt Russell and the huskies apart in The Thing, then I was screwed”), but never makes the film itself a “joke”.
Perhaps it ambles along in too good-natured a fashion until a midway complication, where as Jaakko independently tries to commute to her address, he’s apprehended by two dreadful goons who attempt to rob him. Jaakko, whilst always with a film reference in tow (this time to the bungling kidnappers in Fargo), takes the situation gravely and seems, in an almost spiritual manner, to accept the misfortune and potential injury that might befall him. But again, humour proves the salve, this time of a bureaucratic-comedy sort, as the robbers come up against fiddly hindrances of their own – credit-card safeguards, geographical errors – that allow Jaakko to triumph.
The connective tissue from this set piece to its sentimental end is where the film partially stops convincing and begins cutting corners, ending in a piece of wish fulfilment that is too much a spoonful of sugar (hopefully Jaakko can forgive the Disney musical reference). But this is a fine film about a heroic film buff, sure to flatter audiences of the same at numerous festivals to come.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.