SXSW FILM FESTIVAL 2022 REVIEW! It is refreshing to see the burgeoning inclusion of people with disabilities in cinema. After the success of Coda, we’re bound to witness these groups receive even greater recognition. Unfortunately, we still rarely see narrative fiction involving actors with a likely terminal diagnosis like Multiple Sclerosis. Enter The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic, a Finnish drama written and directed by Teemu Nikki starring Petri Poikolainen, an actor suffering from the aforementioned illness in reality.
Having recently lost his sight due to his affliction, Jaakko (Poikolainen) is forced to have assistance for everyday living in his small flat. He manages to get through his days by talking to his girlfriend Sirpa (Marjaana Maijala) on the phone, though they cannot meet in person because of her health problems. They bond over their unique personal challenges, as well as their mutual love of film. Jaako, a devout cinephile, is proud to show off the extensive collection of DVDs he amassed prior to his blindness. When Sirpa suffers a severe setback, Jaako commits to journeying by himself to meet her so he can finally watch his unopened copy of Titanic. Until now, despite owning it, he has refused to watch.
Nikki and DP Sari Aaltonen keep the tension throughout The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic by almost exclusively keeping the camera tight on Jaakko’s face, keeping almost everything else out of focus. This stylistic choice restricts the audiences’ view of all that surrounds the lead character, in a sense bringing us into his world. This makes the romantic drama somewhat aesthetically unpleasing, but it also heightens the importance of the stellar sound design. As his voyage becomes more dangerous than anticipated, we’re aware of the perils only through ambiguous movement off-frame and the ominous voices and sounds accompanying Jaakko throughout. Indeed, the sequences where he has a run-in with some local ruffians is infinitely more panic-inducing than it would have been otherwise.
“…journeying by himself to meet her so he can finally watch his unopened copy of Titanic.”
The pressure Nikki puts on Poikolainen as Jaakko is understandably intense. His face is our primary reference point for almost the movie’s entirety. This burden, however, just highlights his stellar performance. The actor’s identification with the role goes well beyond how an actor would have approached it without his unique experience. It’s a minor stroke of genius that helps put audiences in the shoes of an individual who must mentally visualize his newfound reality, as seen when he imagines Sirpa looking like Sigourney Weaver in Alien.
There’s an argument to be made that the aesthetic of The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic is too restrictive to work in a visual medium. That the runtime is under ninety minutes certainly helps, as even the most patient viewer will likely yearn for standard visual compositions in a longer film. Regardless, this is a movie that shouldn’t be missed.
This is a moment in cinema that places newfound importance on underrepresented communities. While there’s no guarantee this small drama from Finland will receive the attention it so deserves in the States, one has to hope that it does. But even if The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic doesn’t resonate with those in North America, the cast and crew can take pride in the fact that they’ve crafted one of the more singular experiences of the year.
The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic screened at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival.
"…shouldn't be missed."