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The Man Without a Past

4.4 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Markku Peltola, Kati Outinen, Juhani Niemelä, Kaija Pakarinen, Sakari Kuosmanen
  • Directors: Aki Kaurismäki
  • Format: Anamorphic, Color, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: Finnish (Dolby Digital 5.0)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
    Some Region 1 DVDs may contain Regional Coding Enhancement (RCE). Some, but not all, of our international customers have had problems playing these enhanced discs on what are called "region-free" DVD players. For more information on RCE, click .
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures
  • DVD Release Date: October 7, 2003
  • Run Time: 97 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000B1A5P
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #90,698 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Man Without a Past" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

"A Man without a Past", a 2002 masterpiece of Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki, may well be his best film to date. It relates the story of a welder (Markku Peltola), who is one night coming home from work and while resting on a bench he is assaulted by a group of muggers and beaten almost to death. Yet he regains consciousness, but only to find he does not remember who he is, what's his name -- anything.
Subsequently, the man is taken care of by a community of very-close-to-homeless people, who, nevertheless, lend a helping hand, together with a local Salvation Army group. The man even starts a relationship with a shy, devout Army member Irma (Kati Outinen).
"A Man without a Past" is a film about humanity, about what makes us human, about that we all are different but everyone of us can be an asset to those around us -- and it needn't necessarily be a money aid. The people in this movie help and get the help back. Kaurismaki's directing is up to par with another European great, Almodovar, in that he understands his characters and tolerates their minor mistakes.
The film has many great moments, brilliant dialogues and even a melodramatic ending. Actors' performances are very natural and although the every single character has his/her very own way of viewing the world, the story is ultimately quite believable. After all, life itself writes most unbelievable stories.
Deservedly winning several awards at 2002 Cannes festival, "A Man without a Past" scored the first ever Foreign Film Oscar nomination for Finland. I was writing this review five days before the Oscar ceremony and I saw none of its four contenders, but I felt this Finnish film was a favourite and destined to become a classic.
If you're looking for a film to watch for entertainment and great cinema at once, this may be it. And you will get a large dose of warmth to your heart as a bonus.
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Format: DVD
THE MAN WITHOUT A PAST is a wonderful, lonely, and quiet film about M, a man who has suffered amnesia after being beaten and robbed while sleeping on a public park bench in the Finnish capital of Helsinki. He does not remember his name, or know anything about his past. But instead of going on a crusade to discover his true identity, he simply goes with the flow of life. After being pronounced dead at the hospital he wakes up in a deserted industrial area near the sea and is befriended by its local inhabitants. But M soon finds that his attempts to re-enter society is strongly hindered by the fact that he doesn't remember his name. Instead of being defeated M continues to go about living his life. He eventually rents an abandoned container car and plants a small vegetable garden outside his front door. M develops a new life while leaving the old one behind.
During this film there is a lack of any type of facial expressions or emotions of the characters, even when they are speaking to each other. The dialogue is slow and serious and there is not much action involved. This is what makes THE MAN WITHOUT A PAST a truly unique film. Not many people would appreciate this film with the underlying humor and silences. There is little doubt that this is the best foreign film I've seen for some time. My only complaint about this DVD is the lack of special features. I would really enjoy listening to a director or actor commentary of this film. Regardless, this is an excellent film.
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Format: DVD
This Finnish film may not be for everyone. Though nominated in 2002 for an Oscar for best foreign film, I don't think it got much play here. It's a quiet movie about a guy who is beaten in a park in Helsinki right after getting off a train. The hospital thinks he's dead, but he staggers out, gradually recovers, and can't remember a thing. He meets a number of people, most of whom help him in some way or another. He meets a Salvation Army woman and a relationship developes.
It's hard to describe this movie. The dialoque is often funny, but delivered absolutely deadpan. There is no excitement, but a rich development of story and relationships through incidents that happen to the lead character or that he causes to happen. The two leads, Markku Peltoa and Kati Outinen, are adults and look it. There's no Hollywood handsomeness about either of them. The structure of the movie is a gem of economy. One scene ends and the film moves briskly on to the next scene. No extended, unnecessary character development. No superfluous dialoque. It may sound pompous, but this movie creates at the end a nice feeling of mature contentment.
The DVD of the film is crisp and strong; an excellent transfer. There are no significant extras.
Comment 26 of 26 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This movie reminded me quite a bit of "Ariel," one of Kaurismaki's older films, and I would say that "Ariel" and "The Man Without a Past" are the best of his films that I have seen.

Here, a man is mugged and severely beaten shortly after arriving in Helsinki. He suffers from amnesia and, without any identification, tries to survive as best he can without knowing his own name, let alone his social insurance number. He lives in a cargo container on the Helsinki waterfront, and ends up getting a low paying job with the Salvation Army.

He falls in love with one of the Salvation Army ladies (Kati Outinen, who starred in Kaurismaki's "The Match Factory Girl"), but things get complicated when he eventually learns his real identity. His newfound love seems in jeopardy as he leaves Helsinki for his hometown in order to see a wife who is a stranger to him, and who may or may not be happy to see him again.

I won't spoil the films ending by telling you how things turn out - but I will highly recommend this movie!

I've noticed that some reviewers seem to think that Kaurismaki is making a negative statement about Finland's economy, and I can see why they think so: Most of the Finns you see are living in dingy apartments, cargo containers and dumpsters. But Kaurismaki's films have almost always been about the lower class/lumpen proletariat, in the same way that Eric Rohmer and Whit Stilman make films about the bourgeoisie. In Kaurismaki's "The Leningrad Cowboys Go to America," he portrayed the U.S. in the same fashion, showing mainly rundown neighborhoods and the lower strata of American society.

Finns are known for their melancholy spirit (which some blame for their high suicide rate).
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