Kati Outinen

The Man Without a Past

Interviewed by Tom Dawson

Finnish actress Kati Outinen has been a familiar face in director Aki Kaurismäki's films since the 80s. She won Best Actress at Cannes in 2002 for her part in his latest film, "The Man Without a Past".

Why do you think "The Man Without a Past" has been such a hit in Finland?

Before it won several prizes at Cannes, it wasn't that popular in Finland. After the festival, people at home went to see it and loved it. The humour is a little bit lighter than in some of Aki's other films, and the story is easier to understand.

Normally Finns wait for a couple of years and watch Aki's films on television. But it is as though the international reputation of "The Man Without a Past" caused them to go and see it at the cinema.

You have to remember that Finnish people hate art. If you say, "This is an art film," they say, "Show me the next James Bond." If it doesn't have an art-house reputation, then they will go and see it.

How did it feel to win the Best Actress Prize at Cannes for your performance?

It was an amazing feeling, like opening a door and stepping into a fairytale. It didn't really sink in until I got back to Finland. I was in the middle of filming a TV movie, but the phone kept ringing and strangers hugged me in subway stations!

What interested you about your character Irma in "The Man Without a Past"?

I was interested in what had happened to Irma in her past. She's a Salvation Army officer, who's afraid of her feelings, who wants to give love and comfort to people in her work. The film is her inner struggle to find the courage to fall in love.

You've worked with Aki Kaurismäki since the mid-80s. What makes him such a special director?

I think he trusts the audience and doesn't underestimate them. He believes you don't have to underline everything and that people will understand.

And he trust actors. On one of our films together, I asked him about how my character would react in a certain scene. He said to me, "You're the actress, you should know."

"The Man Without a Past" is on limited release at UK cinemas from Friday 24th January 2003.