Among the films that are most liked and amazed at the Venice Film Festival 2021, there is a strange and daring Finnish title, Sokea Mies, Joka El Halunntu Nahda Titanica, translated into Italian with The Blind Man Who Didn’t Want to See Titanic. Directed by Teemu Nikki, this film is a powerful and courageous genre film, a sort of mix of drama, thriller and survival movie starring a disabled boy, Jaakko, suffering from multiple sclerosis, in such an advanced state that he has even made him blind.
The film, in addition to being an exciting intimate and painful portrait of a precarious and perhaps existence, is also a curious operation of homage and quotation, a recovery of some of the themes and the most iconic moments of the sci-fi genre, of the cult movies of the 80s and 90s.
The blind man who did not want to see Titanic: a very special cinephile
Life for Jaakko, disabled and almost alone in the world, it is very sad and difficult. However, his condition did not make him lose the sense of irony, as well as the desire to feel alive, to experience all that is possible in spite of the dramatic situation.
Beyond the various assistants who alternate in giving him support, his only real relationship, apart from his father, is that with another sick woman, Ama Sirpa, with whom he has very long cinephile conversations.
Their phone calls are the only thing that distracts the protagonist from his state, from the painkillers and the silence that fills his existence, from the physical helplessness that is made even more terrible by the memories of his previous life, from being essentially helpless and vulnerable. But love is a comfort to him, it is his little door to the outside world. However one day Ama tells him that his latest clinical exams have been nothing short of disastrous and who risks dying from an infection. Determined to do everything in his power to help her, Jaakko will leave without any kind of support to arrive by train at the girl’s house.
Obviously this choice will prove to be a real gamble, which will expose the protagonist to incredible dangers, due to a humanity much less sympathetic to him than common sense and logic would suggest.
An innovative and daring direction
What is immediately noticeable de The Blind Man Who Didn’t Want to See Titanic it is the fact that it is a cinematic tale that marries intimacy in a very tight, almost oppressive way. Nikki’s direction makes from the beginning the radical choice to show us the world as much as possible as the protagonist perceives it, and here then, thanks to the blurry photography of Sar Aaltonen, the viewer experiences an absolutely unprecedented isolation.
The first and very first floors are the tools through which this film manages to make us understand the tragedy of an existence conditioned by blindness, immobility, impotence. The most shocking thing is to know that the leading actor is really suffering from multiple sclerosis, and that all production (initially planned for a short film) has been accelerated to the last, just so as not to miss the opportunity to be able to enjoy of the extraordinary interpretation of Petri Poikolainen.
His is a performance that communicates a desperate love for life, a desire to find light in spite of its dramatic conditions, which only increase the craving for any possible social contact. And this despite a shyness and clumsiness that are naturally connected with having to depend on others, although admitting it weighs him tremendously.
The cinephile metaphor of a search for authenticity
At this first level of narration, The Blind Man Who Didn’t Want to See Titanic also adds a curious and interesting dimension of semiotic study, connecting the protagonist to the cinematography of James Cameron, John Carpenter and Ridley Scott.
Jaakko in particular is a die-hard fan of 1997 Escape from New York (and how can you not be after reading our 1997 Escape from New York review), as well as of Alien, Terminator and the best of the cinematography of these three great filmmakers. The only film that he can’t stand, and that when he still had his eyesight he always refused to watch, is the blockbuster that definitively launched Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, that is, that Titanic of which we were telling you the true story. Such refusal, The Blind Man Who Didn’t Want to See Titanic makes it a metaphor for the search for something authentic, of truth, personal and imaginative, which compensates for the paucity of life as a recluse that the protagonist has to face.
Ultimately Jaakko ventures into a world of urban predators and ruthless lack of scruples, not so dissimilar to the dystopian films he loves, the ones he remembers every moment of and that told us about an end of civilization.
This end has the face, or better still the voice, of two petty criminals, who ruthlessly try to take advantage of Jaakko, putting in place blackmail methods that fully affect the sensitivity and empathy of the viewer.
The protagonist wanders almost like the antithesis of the mighty man-machine created by Cameron, connecting rather (by his own admission) to the physical precariousness of the droid that Ridley Scott made the true, definitive villain in the first. Alien.
A movie will save us
Alien, in Jaakko’s mind, it is connected to salvation, to the face he imagines his Ama has: the heroic one of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley in Alien. The Blind Man Who Didn’t Want To See Titanic is not only a beautiful film, incredibly engaging and touching, it also makes us understand an obviousness that often does not arrive effectively enough, something we often forget: cinema, art in general, are a wonderful balm in the existence of many people.
The seventh art, as well as music and every means used by man to express his imagination, allow the more tired mind, more connected to fear or pain, to become estranged, to find a respite. Jaakko is forced to daydream, as the moments when he was still healthy return during sleep, when he saw and could run, regardless of his fate. It doesn’t even matter that I can’t see them anymore, memory and emotions matter, because those last forever. This is a great little film, shot with little money, lots of ideas and immense courage.