Aki Kaurismaki’s Ariel is an enigma of a film, and not really in a good way. It left me with almost nothing to say about it, and every time I would try to dig my hands into what I had just watched, I would just come up empty-handed. Films like this aren’t that bad to watch, and they are usually fairly easy to, but a pain in the ass to try and review. Once again, I finished the film with absolutely no notes written down, and it was for the lesser of the two reasons that that tends to happen; rather than being so spellbound by the film that I am too absorbed in it to break the immersion and write down my thoughts, the film is so virtually unremarkable that to try and describe it is like trying to find what is appealing about a featureless beige wall. Pretty much the only thing you can say is whether or not you like the color.
Taisto Kasurinen is a worker in a mine, and we open the film on the mine closing down. He goes to a restaurant with a man, identified in varying internet sources as either a friend of Taisto’s or his father, who gives Taisto the keys to his convertible, heads to the bathroom, and shoots himself. Taisto proceeds to drive into the city to try and make a new living, where he gets mugged, meets a love interest, and is unable to find steady employment, all in the most unremarkable way it could possibly be shown. I won’t go any further into the plot, not so much as to avoid spoilers but because the film is barely over an hour long, so to watch it after I’ve told you everything that happens is to watch it without even getting your money’s worth. Not to say that you’ll get your money’s worth if you watch it anyway; while things happen, there is no deeper meaning. It just is, so for a scant seventy minutes or so, you are living Taisto’s life, and all the various unfortunate turns it entails. That right there might be the point, to experience what it is like to be a person truly down on their luck, and still trying to make something happen, but there’s still a large part of me that has the thought that this can be done in a much more effective manner than opting for straight minimalist neorealism.
What bothered me the most was how pointless this whole film seemed to be. It goes nowhere, and while a plot is told, there is no need for it to be. There’s no underlying meanings (from what I gathered), no subtext to be had; it just tells a story, from beginning to end, and then ends. That’s it. I actually had to go to other reviews of the film online to find stuff about the film to talk about, and most of them were generally around my level of where I felt the film was at, but still praised its “dark comedy” and “good sense”. For me, dark comedy this wasn’t (though in all fairness, I’d throw my hands in the air trying to come up with a more appropriate genre to place this one in), and while it may have good sense, it takes absolutely no risks. That might be good sense, but if all we do is stay in our comfort zone and never make a decision one way or another for fear of making a wrong one, then all we are is stuck; stuck in a situation that will remain as unresolved as it is immobilizing. That’s Ariel in a nutshell. Don’t get me wrong, I still liked the film, especially for it being as short as it was, but if you were to ask me why I liked it, and pressed me for tangible reasons as to so, I would likely just smirk and shrug my shoulders. And I would be right.
Arbitrary Rating: 6/10