Drifting Clouds (Finnish:Kauas pilvet karkaavat) is a 1996 Finnish film directed by Aki Kaurismäki and the film is the first in Kaurismäki’s Finland trilogy, the other 2 films being The Man Without a Past and Lights in the Dusk.
In “Drifting Clouds,” a woman loses her job at a bankrupt restaurant, her husband is laid off by the transport system, their TV is repossessed, she pays her savings to an employment agency for another job, she isn’t paid, and when her husband tries to collect he gets beaten up. But there’s a happy ending. Does such misery of everyday proportions that Tom, Dick and Harry face these days make a movie worth writing about?
A film can do its job well with such couple, whom we might easily pass unnoticed if we were to pass them on street in course of a day. Ilona Koponen (Kati Outinen), a head waitress at Dubrovnik restaurant, is married to Lauri (Kari Väänänen), a tram driver. The couple lives in a small, modestly furnished apartment in Helsinki. There is sympathy and understanding between the two: Lauri is macho who has immense confdence in himself. He considers it beneath him to go on welfare. Whereas Ilona having gradually worked her way up from dishwashing to the level of a head waiter is more tuned to the reality of living. Their struggle for survival has hope at its best since they have nothing else by way of worldly goods to show them in better light. At the point of starting their own restaurant, their capital depends upon the director of the bank with which she had all along done business. She has hope of making a successful go of her venture but the banker needs a backer and all she could produce is another stolid citizen like her, a shoe repairer. Of course the bank shoots down their dream. Hope always has its way of showing up in unexpected places and it turns out into the form of the director of Dubrovnik, where she had worked earlier. Lauri who can no longer drive a tram because of an ear problem will work for her in the capacity of the porter. The story’s punchline is delivered by their concerted effect to survive. They, thanks to the film take the centre stage for 96 minutes of its running time.
Camera is a creative eye in the hands of a creative cameraman; and everyday life of for a discerning film-maker offers a wealth of material out of which the excellence of editing can lift the narrative from pedestrian to the level of art. Film-making can never be objective or impersonal but instead film is a creative ‘lie’ of every day events to fall in a preconceived mold of some. For the very reason we pay undivided attention to the effect of vagaries of market economy on Lauri and Ilona. The mold may be a wellcrafted script or a sketch of scenes that is to be followed through in a day’s shooting. Lie it is since a lot of material gets discarded at the cutting floor and more scenes are added to what is retained in order to make a cogent whole. Drifting Clouds succeeds inspite of its commonplace storyline. It is made special by the particular vision and sympathies of Aki Kaurismäki.
Aki Kaurismaki has a quirky comic vision to hold viewers attention out of everyday happenings.
Although the film was not as widely distributed as an average Hollywood feature and, as a result, was not a commercial success to the same extent, it was well received by film critics worldwide. At the 1996 Cannes Film Festival, the film won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury – Special Mention award as well as being nominated for the Palme d’Or. The film won several awards at the 1997 Finnish Jussi awards including Best Film, Best Director (Kaurismäki), Best Script (Kaurismäki), Best Actress (Outinen), and Best Supporting Actress (Salo).
Directed by Aki Kaurismäki
Produced by Aki Kaurismäki
Written by Aki Kaurismäki
Music by Timo Salminen
Cinematography Timo Salminen
Editing by Aki Kaurismäki
Running time 96 mins
Budget FIM 5,562,154 (approx. € 935,000)
Ilona: Kati Outinen
Lauri: Kari Vaeaenaenen
Melartin: Sakari Kuosmanen
Pianist: Shelley Fisher
Tax Inspector: Tero Jartti
# Dedicated to the memory of Matti Pellonpää (who was frequently cast by director Aki Kaurismäki) for whom the main role was originally intended. The child who can be seen in the photo is Pellonpää, a homage.
# One of the restaurants in this film is named “Dubrovnik”. Scenes set in that restaurant were filmed at Yrjönkatu 18, which at time were not an actual restaurant. However, in summer 2005 at this location opened restaurant G18. Bit later the Andorra cinema, which is co-owned by Kaurismäki brothers, was converted into new form and one of the theatre halls was changed into Dubrovnik Lounge & Lobby.
Ravintolapäällikkö: [Ilona is applying a new job] To be honest, you’re beginning to be too old.
Ilona: I’m 36.
Ravintolapäällikkö: You can pass away at any time.
Olympian mies: [after Lauri has recovered from beating] You start distantly remind a human being.