A Cultural Reference: Helsinki
The way I travel.
Before I leave for a place I like to read about it; see it in a movie. When I leave, I like to hang on to the memories of a place through music, tastes, pictures. So, I take photographs, fill my bags with food and download tracks by local artists.
I only spent a week in Helsinki and yet, we have this connection, Helsinki and I. My jar of lingonberry jam, bags of Salmiakki and bottles of Lonkero are finished, but I can still imagine myself there through books, films and music.
Film: The Man Without a Past
Whenever someone asks me what film I want to watch I immediately think of The Man Without a Past. I could watch it every day without tiring. In this film by Aki Kaurismäki a man falls asleep in a Helsinki park, is beaten by thugs and declared dead in hospital. He wakes up, with no memory, and leaves the hospital of his own will and is taken in by a complete stranger to start his life from scratch. The man finds an old jukebox, inspires a group of musicians and falls in love with a Salvation Army worker.
I hate to use this word, but it is charming. The main character carves out a simple life, free from history and memory. For a while it seems like life really could be so simple.
Kaurismäki also directed Leningrad Cowboys Go America and pseudo-film noir, Lights in the Dusk.
Most of Vendela Vida’s Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name takes place in, as the title suggests, the far north of Finland. There is a brief section, however, when Clarissa first arrives in Helsinki from America and has an awkward encounter with a young hotel worker that just reeks of loneliness and the sense of feeling out of sorts and lost in a place that you don’t quite know why you came to.
Kjell Westö is a Finnish author who writes in Swedish — it is sometimes quite jarring to remember that there is a large Swedish-speaking Finnish population, and to realise that the street signs in Helsinki are in both languages. Lang is a character study of an arrogant television personality, just past his peak, and his childhood friend that appears out of the past. The book is suspenseful; menacing, and a page turner.
Islaja sounds glacial; Rubik, melodious; Manna is rock n’ roll sass, and Husky Rescue, cinematic.