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6.8/10 by 35 users

Taisto Kasurinen is a Finnish coal miner whose father has just committed suicide and who is framed for a crime he did not commit. In jail, he starts to dream about leaving the country and starting a new life. He escapes from prison but things don't go as planned...

Release Date:October 21, 1988
Genres:Drama, Crime
Production Co.:Villealfa Filmproduction Oy, Finnish Film Foundation
Production Countries:Finland
Director:Aki Kaurismäki
Casts:, , ,
Plot Keywords:underdog, prison, factory worker, prisoner, helsinki, independent film, falling in love

Ariel Reviews

  • After Seeing Ariel, I Will Die A Happy Man
    by Karl Self on 16 March 2001

    40 out of 50 people found the following review useful:

    When I first saw Ariel, at the beginning of the Nineties, maybe three years after it was first released, it blew me away. At the time I had gone through a long streak of awful "alternative" movies, the last one having been Atom Egoyan's "The Adjuster"; I was totally depressed and fed up with cinema in general since all the movies around seemed to be either generic Hollywood block busters or equally generic "intellectual" time wasters -- "The Adjuster" being a perfect example of the latter category. When I left the cinema after having seen Ariel, I had tears of joy in my eyes, thinking: "thank god, I do not have to give up going to the cinema after all". Ariel is exactly the movie I wish I had made, very cool, funny, stylish, engaging, romantic, hard core, subtle. I have seen it many times since, it has become my all - time favourite, desert - island movie. Of course there are other good movies around, but few which match its quality, and none of them changed my outlook on cinema the way Ariel did. Other Kaurismäkis movies I have seen and loved are "MacBeth", "I Hired A Contract Killer", "La vie de bohème", "Tulitikkutehtaan tyttö" ("The Match Factory Girl"), "Juha"; the Leningrad Cowboy flicks were OK, but not really my cup of tea.

    Anyway, I have a small anecdote I want to get off my chest: shortly after seeing A I was talking with a couple of co - workers about movies, and one of them said: "the other day I saw the best movie ever, it's called Ariel, it blew me away, I haven't washed my eyes since", etc. I thought, wow, I would have never thought that she would like that movie, but there you go, truly good movies just have a universal appeal. Only years later did I find out that she had been talking about not Kaurismäkis' masterpiece but Disney's "Arielle -- The Little Mermaid". ;-)

  • Everything Kaurismaki worked towards in his career up to that point
    by chaos-rampant on 11 November 2008

    23 out of 29 people found the following review useful:

    There's something that seems deeply contradictory to the very nature of Kaurismaki's stuff - cinema which at the same time invites the viewer to pay closer attention while shunning him with his trademark apathy and deadpan humour. His characters appear hard, untearful and unselfpitying, their sentiments hermetically sealed behind glacial walls of Finnish unfeeling, yet behind the expressionless mask burn desire and pathos, the truly human stuff. It is not about negation, though it may seem so at first.

    Everything Kaurismaki worked towards in his career up to Ariel is brought to a glorious, brilliant blooming here. Composition, shot selection, framing and lighting, everything clicks together to form a cinematic language that threatens to burst at the seams with meaningful restraint. Restraint in which silence communicates. His mastering of the craft so much perfected that dialogue becomes largely irrelevant. There are few lines and they appear to be utilized as a stylistic manner, short and delivered with deadpan unaffection, more than exposition.

    Indeed Ariel is a movie mostly told in a visual manner, built upon scene by scene, in a steady and hypnotic succession not concerned with reaching emotionally draining highs and lows as much as with building an unbreakable rhythm of its own. And so it does, to the point that a 69 minute movie appears to last much longer, without outstaying its welcome.

  • Detail matters
    by Mehmet E. Yavuz on 19 September 2004

    16 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

    This is the second Aki Kaurismäki film I have seen.The first one was 'The Man Without a Past. After enjoying that a lot, I decided to watch the other movies of Kaurismaki, because I believe he is very good in expressing the 'life' through the simple daily life events or talks. When I watched Ariel, the first thing I noticed was, as in the previous movie, the characters don't speak much, but when they speak they are concise and to the point. The relationships start very abruptly and different from what is normally expected, but all of them end up being loyal and caring. With the beginning of the journey of the miner (Kasurinen) to the south by a convertible car, the movie also starts to present its comedy, romance, action and drama. Kasurinen keeps his calmness through all that happens to him and in the end he achieves his goal. I can recommend this movie to those who like details .

  • "No, we'll be together forever." ...Taisto :-)))
    by crankduran-1 on 28 October 2004

    18 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

    I saw my first Kaurismäki movie (Man Without a Past) a year ago and have seen and now own most of them. I love them all and watch them over and over, but Ariel is one of my favorites. The dark humor and irony is great, with all the usual elements of suicide, big, old American cars and cool music throughout, ending with the very appropriate "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" in Finnish. All of Kaurismäki's movies demand every second of your attention or you will not "get it" and every time I watch one again, I notice something else. As to the gloom and doom, my Finnish friends tell me not to believe that Finland is truly as depicted here. :-))) I love the relationships: not gushy or fake, but faithful and just plain sweet. It seems much is understood without words and that's the way this movie is.

  • Kaurismäki's delightfully picaresque modern-day fable
    by Graham Greene on 19 May 2008

    9 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

    In the two opening sequences of Ariel (1988) - director Aki Kaurismäki's typically straight-faced character study about a life and its cruel ironies - the main character, Taisto, watches as the mine where he once worked is closed and demolished, only to then observe with a calm detachment the suicide of his father in a coffee shop restroom. Both sequences are captured in Kaurismäki's typically deadpan approach that is rife with a cruel satire and an almost absurd sense of humour, whilst also setting up the spirit of defeat, failure and the unpredictable twists of fate that will conspire against the character throughout the rest of the film. From here we follow Taisto as he travels from Lapland to Helsinki in a Cadillac with no roof, and observe his completely disconnected and often bemused approach to life as he wanders the city, falls in love, goes to prison and ultimately, learns something about himself along the way.

    For me, the film was somewhat reminiscent of Lindsay Anderson's O Lucky Man! (1973), with Kaurismäki presenting the film as an incongruous, picaresque fable that is rich in character, humour and an astute sense of pathos. Like Anderson's film, the plot is relatively simple in a cinematic sense - with the emphasis on a single character charting an unconventional path through life - but is adapted on a completely epic scale, with the sheer number of adventures and misadventures packed into such a tight running time destroying any broader notion of the "social realist" tag that many have applied to Kaurismäki's earlier works. Although I love his first three films, in particular Crime and Punishment (1983) and The Calimari Union (1985), for me, Kaurismäki really started to settle into his trademark style with Ariel, building on the greatness of the previous year's Hamlet Goes Business (1987) and setting the scene for later films such as Take Care of Your Scarf, Tatiana (1994), Juha (1999) and The Man Without a Past (2002).

    Like many of Kaurismäki's best works, the reason Ariel works so well is as a result of the perfect casting. Every single performance in this film is great in its own unique little way, and really manages to convey a great deal about the characters and their roles within the film, without having to fall back on lengthy scenes of dialog and exposition. The structure and visualisation of the film is light as a feather, as Kaurismäki takes one shot of a character looking pensively from a window and carefully examining a half-empty packet of cigarettes and gives us a wealth of information, not only about where these characters are coming from, but also where they're heading. As with the other two films in the trilogy, and indeed, many of the director's other works, the film skilfully manages to walk that fine line between a cruel and mocking sense of humour- as we watch these characters strive and fail and ultimately fall flat on their faces in such a manner as to offer an obvious comedic punch - and a genuine sense of warmth and compassion.

    If you're at all familiar with Kaurismäki's particular style of directing from films like Shadows in Paradise (1986) and The Match Factory Girl (1990), then you'll already have some idea of what to expect from the film in question; with those particular films acting as the bookends (with Ariel in between) to an informal trilogy of works looking at the downtrodden underclass constantly striving for hope and happiness in a cold and confusing world. Out of the three films in this loose triptych of modern-day fables, Ariel is for me the most moving and entertaining, and is also the one in which Kaurismäki themes and motifs are best served by the character and the situations he finds himself in. The direction is truly great; typical of Kaurismäki's minimal approach, with self-consciously flat and iconic compositions and an incredibly warm approach to lighting, while the script and the characters are strong enough to draw us in and make the experience all the more rewarding.

  • Emotional turmoil of marginal characters from small towns who emerge victorious against all odds
    by FilmCriticLalitRao on 2 December 2008

    10 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

    A new trend has emerged in world cinema which consists of portraying marginal characters from small towns who are unable to make better lives for themselves.It has been appreciated both by critics as well as ordinary film lovers as they are fed up of imaginary tales about urban centers which are nothing but an eyewash.Many filmmakers from Europe have explored this trend in their films in order to give audiences worldwide a realistic dose of humanity coupled with realism.Ariel is one such film directed by maverick Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki whose films have always made a point to portray harsh socio economic realities of Finland.Ariel is a film with universal sense of purpose as by depicting human mobility,a challenging film about a primitive human instinct has been filmed.Aki Kaurismaki shows us how his protagonist Taisto Kasurinen battles all odds to gain love,respect and trust in his difficult life full of unexpected challenges.A curious element that must be noted by an astute viewer about Ariel is that it is not at all a thriller film although rapid succession of events might suggest such a plausibility.There is a place for every possible genre in Ariel.We see comedy,drama and thriller all at the same time interspersed with natural beauty of icy Finnish landscape which has been popularized due to films by Aki Kaurismaki and his equally charismatic filmmaker brother Mika Kaurismaki.

  • "Bury my heart at the dump"
    by hasosch on 13 May 2009

    8 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

    "Ariel" is the story of a Finnish minor who has just lost his job. In the canteen, his father tells him that he, too, is fed up with this industry, all you can - says he - is boozing your brains away, but this is of no use. However, there is another way, the father continues, takes out his gun, says, but it is not a solution either, yet, I will do it anyway, takes the gun with him in the restroom. One hears a shot, then the collapse of a body. The son still drinks beer, it takes him a while to realize what happens. He stands up, goes to a bank, withdraws all his money, takes fathers car out of a garage and drives to Hamburger place. There, two men see the money in his pocket, knock him down, steal the money. When he awakes, he drives to a shipyard, engages as a laborer, sleeps in the night in a Christian charity place. The next day, he gets a ticket, tells the woman that she is no good cop but attractive, she answers he is right, but she is divorced and has a child, he responds, that's good, then we do not have anymore to build up a family.

    Aki Kaurismäki, "the Finnish Fassbinder" (although he does not need this comparison), is a master of minimalism. Not only are the dialogs absolutely minimal, but one really wonders who his movies are understandable through the fragments of reality he gives and from which the audience must build up his recognition of what the movie wants to communicate. Then the music. I am really convinced that nobody else than Fassbinder and Kaurismäki have the talent to bring the exactly fitting movie to the exactly right situation in the precisely correct moment. Kaurismäki's movies "blow you away", because in their minimal-"invasive" metaphysics, they can be cathartic.

  • You Won't Be Harshed
    by ozdavidson on 20 September 2008

    8 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

    Something of a small masterpiece, Ariel is reminiscent of Robert Bresson's L'Argent and Werner Herzog's Stroszek in its restraint and progressively doleful turn of events. But cheer up! This is not your ordinary mellow harshing Euro fare. Yes, there is unemployment, yes there is suicide, yes there is great injustice and inhumanity. It would be dull to only speak of a film's pleasing, peaceful moments, and they are to be found here too. You get the whole symphony here, handled with a light touch and delivered in a neutral, understated fashion.

    This film won't assault your senses, but subtly it will begin to work its charm. This arises through the minimal dialogue, expression, and simplicity of the mis en scene. As with most minimalism, small details and moments accumulate at story's end, which creates a very rewarding effect. Kaurismaki understands the power of evenhandedness and understatement. I hope he charms you as he has charmed me.

  • Meaningful, witty storytelling in deadpan humor.
    by Polaris_DiB on 29 January 2010

    4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

    Possibly Aki Kaurismaki's most action-filled spectacle! Within the first five minutes of this film, an explosion happens, a gun goes off, and a man is mugged--all more action than all of the other Aki Kaurismaki movies I've seen put together. That said, I am coming from the perspective of a person who has seen other Kaurismaki films--people coming into this from other perspectives would react more to the deadpan and flat nature of it, unless they were familiar with Wes Anderson and Jim Jarmusch, two people obviously inspired by this type of movie.

    Ariel is quite honest, hilarious, and hopeful all at the same time, despite it's aloof and deadpan nature. At the moment when the woman asks the man, "My husband left us, will you leave?" and he says, not missing a beat to think, "I'll be with you forever", neither without blinking or emoting, you nevertheless know that they are not lying and fully mean everything they say. A movie about bad luck, not bad people, Ariel somehow mixes hopes and dreams with squalor and poverty without once falling into maudlin sentimentality. It's almost uncanny, if for the fact that it is in no way unfamiliar.

    I can see why this one is the movie that got Kaurismaki his international recognition. It meets the viewer half way, providing something fun to look at with meaningful, witty storytelling while providing a nice alternative to the schmaltz of most Hollywood movies and the dramatics international audiences seek in the art house circuit.


  • A Study in Acceptance and Spontaneity - a Way of Being that Defies Circumstance
    by Daniel Hall ( on 30 March 2004

    10 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

    Director-screenwriter Kaurismäki seems to portray a way of feeling that defies circumstance. The protagonists see contentment and adversity without glee, remorse or recrimination. There is an unspoken lesson. In relating to one another the protagonists do not require validation, offer explanations or make demands. Main character Taisto faces the coarsest of the coarse amicably without fawning fearfully or retaliating reactively. Another character, the boy, is intelligent, quiet, never doubts, has no complex puzzlement about loyalty. What is remarkable is that none of the foregoing is typical of a real, live modern person: most of us spend thousands attempting to reach such a state of grace.

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