For the Living and the Dead

Director: Kari Paljakka

Finland| 2004. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 95 min.

Almost 20 years ago Finnish director Kari Paljakka saw a television interview with a couple who had recently lost their youngest son in a domestic accident. He was deeply affected by the candid and coherent description of their experiences following their tragedy. The idea stayed with him to explore notions of loss and the passage of grief based on the couple’s story within the imagined world of a feature film. Far from being mawkish, Paljakka has created in For the Living and the Dead a very well observed, sympathetic, sometimes humorous and ultimately hopeful family portrait. Like other films that have dealt with similar themes such as Aftermath, this is very much about recuperation, the strength of the human spirit and, most importantly, life. That is not to deny that Paljakka doesn’t deal with deep and painful emotions here. He certainly creates a quiet but profound sense of pain, which is at times magnified by the surprising and troubling shortcomings of friends and neighbours. However, it is Paljakka’s empathy and respect for his characters that shines out in this truly human, cathartic and essentially optimistic film.

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