Aki Kaurismaki’s ‘Fallen Leaves’: A Cinematic Conversation with History

Explore Aki Kaurismaki’s latest film, ‘Fallen Leaves,’ as it delves into the struggles of star-crossed lovers in a capitalist society. Discover the powerful themes of love, capitalism, and the color of hope in this compelling romantic comedy.

Aki Kaurismaki’s ‘Fallen Leaves’: A Cinematic Conversation with History

Filmmakers engaging in a dialogue with each other’s works is a common and enjoyable practice. However, in today’s franchise-dominated era, this technique is often overused for the sake of creating a shared universe, regardless of the artistic consequences. Thankfully, in the skilled hands of directors like Aki Kaurismaki, the exploration of cinematic history remains a rewarding endeavor. Kaurismaki’s latest film, ‘Fallen Leaves,’ beautifully exemplifies this power, offering a deceptively simple romantic comedy that delves into the struggles of star-crossed lovers in a capitalist society.

Aki Kaurismaki's 'Fallen Leaves': A Cinematic Conversation with History - -1679639532

( Credit to: Thefederal )

The Movie-Going Sequence

In a poignant movie-going sequence within ‘Fallen Leaves,’ the two protagonists, Holappa and Ansa, find a moment of respite from their harsh lives. Holappa, an alcoholic man burdened by melancholy, and Ansa, an overworked woman striving for honesty in a corrupt supermarket, finally have a chance to enjoy themselves at the cinema. The film they watch, ‘The Dead Don’t Die,’ a 2019 zombie comedy directed by Kaurismaki’s friend Jim Jarmusch, elicits an unexpected response from Ansa – she bursts into laughter, a rare occurrence in her life. This scene not only showcases Kaurismaki and Jarmusch’s shared penchant for introducing absurdism into everyday situations but also serves as a commentary on the protagonists’ perception of their own existence under modern capitalism.

Zombie-Existence Under Capitalism

Holappa and Ansa view their lives as a kind of zombie-existence within the framework of modern capitalism. Throughout the film, Kaurismaki employs a minimalist visual vocabulary to convey this sentiment. For instance, in one scene, Holappa gazes at his surly reflection in a shattered mirror, resembling a Cubist portrait. Another poignant moment occurs when Ansa finds Holappa drunk and passed out on a bench, vulnerable to the exploitation of teenagers rifling through his pockets. Ansa’s actions, checking his pulse and ensuring his safety, juxtapose the harsh realities of their lives with a fleeting moment of care and compassion.

Kaurismaki’s Minimalist Visual Style

Kaurismaki’s visual style, often spare and minimalist, perfectly complements the themes explored in ‘Fallen Leaves.’ However, unlike some of his previous works, this film showcases the director at the height of his creative powers. The spareness of his visuals does not hinder the storytelling but rather enhances it. In this regard, ‘Fallen Leaves’ stands alongside Kaurismaki’s mid-career masterpieces like ‘Ariel,’ ‘Leningrad Cowboys Go America,’ and ‘La Vie de bohème.’

The Color of Hope

One of the prominent themes in Kaurismaki’s career is his compassionate portrayal of proletarian characters, as seen in films like ‘Shadows in Paradise’ and ‘The Match Factory Girl.’ ‘Fallen Leaves’ can be considered a culmination of these themes, with Ansa resembling the protagonist Iris from ‘The Match Factory Girl.’ Both characters are unassuming young women navigating challenging jobs in a post-industrial landscape, concealing their rich inner lives from the world. Furthermore, both women share a strong connection with vibrant colors that contrast with their otherwise dreary existence. In ‘Fallen Leaves,’ Ansa’s encounter with a lively turquoise overcoat while meeting Chaplin, a friendly yellow dog she adopts, signifies a moment of joy and relaxation.


‘Fallen Leaves’ is a testament to Aki Kaurismaki’s ability to engage with cinematic history and deliver compelling narratives. For Kaurismaki enthusiasts, this film serves as a culmination of his storytelling themes and techniques. For newcomers, it offers a perfect introduction to the unique and captivating world of this extraordinary filmmaker. Through its exploration of love, capitalism, and the color of hope, ‘Fallen Leaves’ reminds us of the enduring power of cinema to illuminate the human experience.

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Written by Reddit Manga

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