Review by James Lindorf
There is no getting around it, “The Blind Man Who Did Not Want To See Titanic” is the type of title that screams pretentious or overly artsy. It is the kind of name that is unappealing to the larger American audience. Those choosing to pass on this film because of its title or that it is presented in Finnish with English subtitles will be missing out on the thrilling fight between humanity’s malice and empathy. There were many exceptional films at this year’s South by Southwest Film Festival. Still, nothing I saw this year rivaled “The Blind Man Who Did Not Want To See Titanic” and its ability to keep my eyes glued to the screen and my heart racing.
Jaakko (Petri Poikolainen) has MS, and the disease has robbed him of the use of both his legs and his eyes. Jaako spends part of each day with a hired caregiver, but most of his time is spent in isolation, stuck in his flat. His days are invaded by a robotic voice reminding him to take his medication and awkward calls from his dad that manage to be distant and overbearing at once. The best parts of his day include placing keno bets, smoking weed on his balcony, and talking on the phone with Sirpa (Marjana Maijaala). The friends have never met in person but initially bonded online over their medical battles. Sirpa has cancer, and when her diagnosis takes a turn for the worse, Jaako decides now is the time. He will brave the trip to see her without the aid of his care provider. He rationalizes that he only needs help at five points from five strangers to complete his travels. What follows is an exploration of determination in the face of depravity.
“The Blind Man Who Did Not Want To See Titanic” can’t give you the whole experience of going through the world as someone who is blind or even visually impaired, but they get as close as anyone possibly could. The first method was to shoot with an extremely shallow focus. There was only one element on screen from beginning to end in clear focus, Poikolainen’s face. It gives you the impression of the world slowly being closed off and heightens the sense of isolation and danger. The second way they approached that goal was by having multiple people appear only in flashes or glimpses of limbs or as a disembodied voice. Like Jaako, the audience never knows exactly where the help or danger is coming from. Then there are little touches like having the credits presented as braille that is read to the viewer giving you a sense of what watching a movie must be like for Jaako.
Teemu Nikki knocked it out of the park with this one. I think we are getting an early glimpse at the film Finland will be submitting to be considered for the Best Foreign Language Film at next year’s Oscars. “The Blind Man Who Did Not Want To See Titanic” is the perfect example of why you shouldn’t judge a film by its title, and I can’t wait to watch it again even with all the undeserved “Titanic” slander.
Rating: No rating at this moment but most likely R for language and intense situations.
Director: Teemu Nikki
Producer: Jani Pösö, Teemu Nikki
Screenwriter: Teemu Nikki
Cinematographer: Sari Aaltonen F.S.C.
Editor: Jussi Sandhu
Sound Designer: Sami Kiiski, Heikki Kossi