Fallen Leaves

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Fallen Leaves is a 2023 drama film written and directed by Aki Kaurismäki. The film was presented in competition at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Jury Prize.

The film’s plot is simple and straightforward: two lonely people, Ansa and Taisto, meet by chance one night in Helsinki. Ansa is a laid-off saleswoman, Taisto is an unemployed factory worker. The two fall in love at first sight, but their relationship is hampered by a series of circumstances: Taisto’s alcoholism, lost phone numbers, not knowing each other’s names or addresses, and life’s general tendency to put obstacles in the way of those seeking their happiness.

Despite the difficulties, Ansa and Taisto do not give up and continue to try to be together. Their love is pure and sincere, and in the end it manages to overcome all obstacles.

The film is characterized by Kaurismäki’s typical style, which is based on a combination of irony, realism, and poetry. The images are often melancholic and nostalgic, but at the same time they convey a sense of hope and optimism.

Fallen Leaves is a romantic and moving film that tells the story of two people who find love in a difficult world. It is a film about hope, second chances, and the power of love.

Here are some of the film’s main themes:

  • Love as a saving force: Ansa and Taisto find love at a difficult time in their lives, and this love helps them to overcome difficulties and find happiness.
  • Hope: Despite the difficulties, Ansa and Taisto do not give up and continue to hope to be together.
  • Second chances: Ansa and Taisto have both made mistakes, but they realize they are meant to be together and have the chance to start over together.

Fallen Leaves is a film that has received positive reviews from critics. The film has been praised for its touching story, melancholic images, and nostalgic soundtrack.

Fallen Leaves Plot

Fallen Leaves begins with a shot of Ansa (Alma Pöysti), a lonely woman living in a small apartment in Helsinki. Ansa works as a saleswoman in a supermarket, but she is fired when she is caught taking home expired food.

One night, Ansa goes to a bar to have a drink. There she meets Taisto (Jussi Vatanen), an unemployed factory worker. Taisto is a kind and caring man, and Ansa is immediately attracted to him. The two fall in love at first sight.

Ansa and Taisto see each other several times, but their relationship is hampered by a series of circumstances. Taisto has a problem with alcoholism, and he often gets drunk and loses his head. Ansa does not know Taisto’s name or address, and he does not know hers. And life, in general, has a way of putting obstacles in the way of those seeking happiness.

Despite the difficulties, Ansa and Taisto do not give up. They continue to try to be together, and their love is pure and sincere.

One day, Ansa and Taisto meet by chance at a cinema. The two go home together, and their relationship deepens.

Ansa and Taisto find a way to overcome their difficulties. Taisto starts getting treatment for alcoholism, and Ansa finds a new job. The two get married, and they can finally live their happiness together.

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Production

Fallen-Leaves

The production of Fallen Leaves began in August 2022 and ended in December of the same year. The film was shot entirely in Helsinki, Finland.

The production was handled by the Finnish production company Sputnik Oy, in collaboration with the Italian distribution company Lucky Red. The film’s budget was around €2 million.

The direction was entrusted to Aki Kaurismäki, one of the most important and acclaimed Finnish directors at an international level. Kaurismäki is known for his characteristic cinematographic style, which is based on a combination of irony, realism, and poetry.

The film’s protagonists are Alma Pöysti and Jussi Vatanen. Pöysti plays Ansa, a lonely woman looking for love. Vatanen plays Taisto, a kind and caring man who struggles with alcoholism.

The film’s shooting was carried out in different locations in Helsinki, including the Kallio district, the Old Town, and the port. The film was shot with a melancholic and nostalgic tone.

The film’s soundtrack was composed by Kaurismäki himself. The soundtrack is characterized by jazz and blues music, which contribute to create the film’s melancholic atmosphere.

Fallen Leaves was presented in competition at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Jury Prize. The film was distributed in Italy starting from December 21, 2023.

Distribution

The distribution of Fallen Leaves was handled by the Italian distribution company Lucky Red, in collaboration with the German distribution company The Match Factory.

The film premiered on May 22, 2023 in competition at the 76th Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Jury Prize.

The film was released in Finnish cinemas starting on September 15, 2023.

The distribution of the film in Italy began on December 21, 2023. The film was screened in over 200 Italian cinemas.

The film was also released in other countries, including Germany, France, Spain, United Kingdom, United States, and Canada.

Leaves in the Wind was a commercial success, grossing over €10 million worldwide.

Reception

Fallen Leaves received a positive reception from critics. The film was praised for its touching story, melancholic images, and nostalgic soundtrack.

At the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, the film won the Jury Prize. The jury president, Vincent Lindon, called the film “a simple and moving love story, told with great sensitivity and poetry.”

Italian critics also enjoyed the film. The newspaper “La Repubblica” wrote: “A melancholic and poetic film, which tells the story of two people who are looking for love in a difficult world.” The weekly magazine “L’Espresso” instead stated: “A film that stays in the heart, because it talks about love, hope, and second chances.”

The audience also responded positively to the film. The film grossed over €10 million worldwide, becoming the most-watched film of the year at the cinema in Finland.

Here are some specific comments from critics on Fallen Leaves:

  • Vincent Lindon, jury president of the 2023 Cannes Film Festival: “A simple and moving love story, told with great sensitivity and poetry.”
  • La Repubblica: “A melancholic and poetic film, which tells the story of two people who are looking for love in a difficult world.”
  • L’Espresso: “A film that stays in the heart, because it talks about love, hope, and second chances.”
  • The Hollywood Reporter: “A touching and melancholic film that explores the complexity of love and loss.”
  • The New York Times: “A poetic and moving film that talks about the power of love.”

Fallen Leaves Director

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The director of Fallen Leaves is Aki Kaurismäki, one of the most important and acclaimed Finnish directors at an international level. Kaurismäki was born in Helsinki in 1957. He began his film career in the 1980s, directing a series of independent films that received critical acclaim.

Kaurismäki’s films are characterized by a unique cinematic style, which is based on a combination of irony, realism, and poetry. His films are often set in Finland, and tell the stories of simple and unconventional characters who live on the margins of society.

Among Kaurismäki’s most important films are Crime and Punishment (1983), Ariel (1988), The Match Factory Girl (1990), Leningrad Cowboys Go America (1989), The Man Without a Past (2002), The Other Side of Hope (2017), and The Unknown Known (2017).

Kaurismäki has received numerous awards for his work, including the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Film Festival in 2007.

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Review

by Fabio Del Greco

It is a great pleasure to see Aki Kaurismaki’s new film at the cinema, to be able to admire a simple and powerful cinematic language, which in this historical moment risks extinction and oblivion.

The director reveals his legends with cinephile tributes: Robert Bresson and Jean Luc-Godard. Although it seems rather unlikely and ironic that Jim Jarmusch’s “The Dead Don’t Die” is reminiscent of “Diary of a Country Priest”, as a spectator says upon leaving the melancholy Ritz cinema. In that exchange it seems that Kaurismaki means amused: in a film everyone sees what they want.

Kaurismaki’s Fallen Leaves is a powerful film for today’s audience, in the sense that it is a real cinematic shock: it is the exact opposite of the great single champion of today’s world cinema, Christopher Nolan. The exact opposite of a bombastic cinema that wants to stun viewers with forced sound and visuals, with adrenaline-pumping editing, with great special effects, great stories based on commercial models and great actors, in the typical tradition of mainstream American cinema. A cinema that ultimately leaves one rather cold with its inability to grasp the most subtle nuances of the human being.

Kaurismaki instead winks at his friend of independent cinema Jarmush, who, despite using stars and operating within the American cinema system with a whole series of compromises and concessions to the cinematographic spectacle for an increasingly deeply hypnotized public, still manages to create a pearl of independent cinema like Patterson.

Perhaps Fallen Leaves is not as successful a film as Patterson, but Kaurismaki’s style goes further, it is a film out of time, totally independent, without any famous actor, like all his films, in which the long fixed shots allow us to to let our gaze wander and scrutinize the details, to focus our perception on slight sound effects such as the fizz of the foam of the beer poured into the glass.

But is today’s audience still capable of letting their gaze wander within a shot that lasts 30 seconds in search of the small details and small sounds that testify to the movements of the characters’ souls? Is he still capable of calmly contemplating the neon lights that come on in the cold twilight, the strange faces and fixed gazes of the pub’s patrons, of appreciating a Bressonian recitation emptied of all emphasis?

Fallen Leaves is also striking for the extreme simplicity of the plot and the renunciation of any climax or final scene with an effect. Everything happens with an extreme simplicity and linearity that is truly unusual in films today. Also from this point of view, Kaurismaki’s cinema style is close to that of Bresson, despite having completely different visions of the world. In the stories of both directors there is no complexity of the plot but only the linear events of fate, often cruel.

Kaurismaki’s proletarian losers move in a cold, violent and grotesque world, populated by cynical exploiters, where work is nothing more than blackmail and slavery, and where free time is filled by war news, by the sad lights of the evening , from evenings in the pub where you drown in alcohol and loneliness. A trap that the characters endure with stoic daily heroism.

The director’s world, however, has a melancholy grace, a poetry of life that manifests itself in the images, in the sudden musical ignitions, in the irony of humans who, despite difficult conditions, refuse to suffer and proceed unstoppably in carrying out their actions. In fact, Kaurismaki’s cinema is absolutely an action cinema in which the shots, scenes and sequences precede one after the other, despite their contemplative slowness, like moving trains, with dialogues reduced to a minimum or absent. Pure cinema.

It is indeed singular how the director manages to make his creations rhythmically perfect, with a very slow crescendo that culminates in endings which, despite being completely anti-spectacular and non-explosive, manage to involve. The crescendo of the pace and the story is never evident, it remains hidden, yet the emotional temperature silently rises to levels that the most amazing final action scenes of mainstream cinema cannot even touch.

Foglie al vento is a film that is good for the public and which reinvigorates the desire to make truly independent, creative, personal, artistic and artisanal cinema. A workshop cinema that today is truly something that is continually put to the test, with an audience completely hypnotized by the spectacular, algorithmic and artificial cinema produced by large multinational companies. Productions that in some way with their products would also like to cover the segment of the public that goes to watch Aki Kaurismaki’s films, with their new “fake” arthouse cinema artists.

I think that the future of cinema is precisely in the hands of directors like Aki Kaurismaki. A totally personal cinema, without famous stars, which gives value with duration to the images, the lights, the faces, the atmospheres. A cinema made from the heart that talks about human beings in a totally sincere way, without filters, without narrative manipulations aimed at earning more money. Today, with new shooting and editing technologies, a film can be produced at a negligible cost and I hope that soon there will be 100, 1000 Kaurismaki.

And I hope that on the large screens of multiplexes we will be able to see films like these projected, made of simple, honest, poetic images, which are more spectacular than any scene from a film by Christopher Nolan or some other unique champion, unattainable star of the New Cinema World. And maybe talk to the director after the film over a good pint of beer.

Fabio Del Greco

Fabio Del Greco

Director, screenwriter, actor, creator of moving images since 1987. Passionate about cinema and scholar of the seventh art.

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