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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Other Side of Hope aka "Toivon tuolla puolen" [Blu-ray]


(Aki Kaurismäki, 2017)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Sputnik

Video: Artificial Eye / Criterion Collection Spine #922



Region: 'B' / 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:40:08.416 / 1:40:12.423   

Disc Size: 34,616,572,830 bytes / 49,097,931,456 bytes

Feature Size: 30,451,329,024 bytes / 30,477,060,096 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps / 36.08 Mbps

Chapters: 12 / 24

Case: Standard Blu-ray case / Transparent BD case

Release date: July 24th, 2017 / May 15th, 2018


Video (both):

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio Finnish / English 1772 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1772 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
LPCM Audio Finnish / English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit


DTS-HD Master Audio Finnish 2443 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2443 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)


Subtitles (both):

English, none



Music Video (3:09)
• Trailer (1:58)  


New interview with actor Sherwan Haji (15:03)
Footage from the press conference for the film’s premiere at the 2017 Berlin International Film Festival, featuring Kaurismäki, Haji, and actor Sakari Kuosmanen (29:03)
Aki and Peter, a new video essay by filmmaker Daniel Raim, based on a 1997 essay by critic Peter von Bagh, to whom The Other Side of Hope is dedicated (11:48)
4 Music videos (3:11, 2:50, 3:22, 3:42)
Trailer (1:33)
PLUS: An essay by critic Girish Shambu



1) Artificial Eye - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



Description: This wry, melancholic comedy from Aki Kaurismäki, a response to the ongoing global refugee crisis, follows two people searching for a place to call home. Khaled (Sherwan Haji), a displaced Syrian, lands in Helsinki as a stowaway; meanwhile, middle-aged Finnish salesman Wikström (Sakari Kuosmanen) leaves his wife and his job and buys a conspicuously unprofitable restaurant. Khaled is denied asylum but decides not to return to Aleppo—and the paths of the two men cross fortuitously. As deadpan as the best of the director’s work, and with a deep well of empathy for its down-but-not-out characters (many of them played by members of Kaurismäki’s loyal stock company), The Other Side of Hope is a bittersweet celebration of pockets of human kindness in an unwelcoming world.


If you know the Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki, you’ll know he makes the driest of dry black comedies that rarely put a step further than a Helsinki bar – with a quiffed rockabilly band and pack of cigarettes never far away. His film are gems of poker-faced comic absurdism, full of expressionless faces and gloomy rooms. That’s still the case with ‘The Other Side of Hope’ – but this time the veteran filmmaker’s mind is on the European refugee crisis. In his own idiosyncratic way Kaurismäki addresses this hot topic by asking: why would anyone want to come to horrible old Finland anyway?

The beauty of ‘The Other Side of Hope’ is that Kaurismäki also manages to be touching and compassionate along the way. He invites the refugee crisis into his world, paralleling the story of Khaled (Sherwan Haji), a Syrian seeking leave to remain in Finland, with that of middle-aged Wikström (Sakari Kuosmanen), who decides to abandon his job as a shirt salesman, leave his alcoholic wife and buy a failing restaurant after winning a pile of cash at a dodgy late-night card game.

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE



The Film:

There’s an ambivalence to the title of Aki Kaurismäki’s latest film – the second in an intended trilogy set in harbour towns and which, so far, have highlighted the theme of migration and refugees. The flipside of hope is generally considered “despair” but what if the other side is not somewhere negative, but where you end up when your hope is realised? These hints of positivity in otherwise dark places are the meat and bread of Kaurismäki’s films, where individuals are shown to be frequently more inclined to acts of kindness than society as a whole. He’s a filmmaker who also takes pleasure in deconstructing stereotypes, to see the person beyond the initial perception.

As with his previous film, Le Havre, the story concerns two people who meet by chance, although not until deep into the runtime. Khaled (Sherwan Haji) is a young Syrian refugee who has ended up in Finland almost by default after being unfortunately split up from his sister as they fled their homeland. Middle-aged Helsinki resident Wikström (frequent Kaurismäki collaborator Sakari Kuosmanen) is also making a break from his old life, leaving his alcoholic wife, selling his shirt business and, quite literally, gambling on starting a new business without losing his shirt.

Excerpt from EyeForFilm located HERE

The Other Side of Hope, Aki Kaurismäki’s gorgeous and cuttingly poignant comedy, begins with a young Syrian asylum seeker emerging from a coal pile in Helsinki’s industrial port. He is Khaled (Sherwan Haji), and has wound up here by accident, after escaping violent persecution by jumping aboard a freighter in Eastern Europe.

Coated black, head to toe, he finds his way to a shower and cleans up, before asking a local official where to find the police. “Are you sure?” asks the man, a young black guy, quizzically – a question that’s pure, distilled Kaurismäki, in its loving irreverence, implied empathy, and suggestion of a community that wants to help the down-and-out however it can.

Excerpt from TheTelegraph located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The Other Side of Hope gets an impressive transfer to Blu-ray from Artificial Eye.  It's in dual-layered territory with a max'ed out bitrate for the 1 hour 40-minute feature. The film is comprised of many medium shots and deadpan silence. There is some minor depth in the, original, 1.85:1 frame.  It's pristinely clean showcasing some hi-def detail and there are really no flaws with the rendering. This Blu-ray probably looks like exactly the theatrical version of the film The Other Side of Hope. The film is not particularly dynamic, in a visual sense, but the HD transfer seems a strong replication.


The Criterion is advertised as a "New 2K digital transfer, approved by director Aki Kaurismäki". Predictably, it is quite similar to the AE - dual-layered, high bitrate - the Criterion has deeper black levels colors and skin tones warm, but framing and detail have parity.



1) Artificial Eye - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



1) Artificial Eye - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



1) Artificial Eye - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



More Blu-ray Captures

















Audio :

As usual, AE offer a DTS-HD Master 5.1 at 1772 kbps or a linear PCM stereo track - both 16-bit and in the original Finnish with some English, Arabic and Swedish used in the film. The live music sounds very lounge-like-natural and grassroots in the lossless. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.


Audio also gets a DTS-HD Master in 5.1 surround and it is likewise effective with minor depth in the lossless supporting the film's music by performed by Tuomari Nurmio, Olavi Nyrhilä & tango-orkesteri Kipiniä, actor Sherwan Haji, Harri Marstio and Antero Jakoila and others. Criterion add optional English subtitles on their Region 'A'-locked Blu-ray disc.


Extras :

Only a 3-minute music video of the Kaipuuni Tango by Marko Haavisto and Poutahaukat plus a theatrical trailer.


Criterion include many supplements - we have a new 1/4 hour interview with actor Sherwan Haji and he discusses his move to Finland, working with director Aki Kaurismaki, and the ongoing plight of Syrian refugees. Included are 1/2 hour of footage from the press conference for the film’s premiere at the 2017 Berlin International Film Festival, featuring Kaurismäki, Haji, and actor Sakari Kuosmanen . The director addresses his humanistic approach to filmmaking. He won the festival's Silver Bear award for best director for The Other Side of Hope. Aki and Peter, a new, 12-minute, video essay by filmmaker Daniel Raim, based on a 1997 essay by critic Peter von Bagh, to whom The Other Side of Hope is dedicated. Raim explores Kaurismaki's oeuvre through the words of von Bagh. There is 12-minutes worth of four full versions of music videos of songs that appear, in part, in the film. There is also a trailer and the package has a liner notes booklet with an essay by critic Girish Shambu.


Artificial Eye - Region 'B' - Blu-ray



Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray



Aki Kaurismäki films are always poignant, funny - subtly satirizing bureaucracy and the human condition, and also carry a warm, personal edge using minimal dialogue, laconic characters, a static camera and performance music. Here he avoids the political staying with the desperation of one story and the business-side of the other. We see commonalities and the gulf between them. The Artificial Eye Blu-ray provides a strong a/v presentation although has minimal supplements. Fans of the director's work will easily recognize his unique style and this is another of his excellent films.


Upper tier Kaurismaki makes for wonderful viewing. The Criterion Blu-ray advances with it's supplements and this package is absolutely recommended! A great way to dive into this appealing director's work. 

Gary Tooze

July 20th, 2017

April 3rd, 2018




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