Drifting Clouds (film)

Drifting Clouds (Finnish: Kauas pilvet karkaavat) is a 1996 Finnish comedy drama film edited, written, produced, and directed by Aki Kaurismäki and starring Kati Outinen, Kari Väänänen and Markku Peltola. The film is the first in Kaurismäki's Finland trilogy, the other 2 films being The Man Without a Past and Lights in the Dusk. The film was selected as the Finnish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 69th Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.[2][3]

Drifting Clouds
Drifting Clouds DVD cover
Directed byAki Kaurismäki
Produced byAki Kaurismäki
Written byAki Kaurismäki
Music byTimo Salminen
CinematographyTimo Salminen
Edited byAki Kaurismäki
Distributed bySputnik
Release date
  • 26 January 1996 (1996-01-26)
Running time
97 minutes[1]
BudgetFIM 5,562,154 (approx. € 935,000)f


Ilona Koponen (Kati Outinen), a head waitress at Dubrovnik restaurant, is married to Lauri (Kari Väänänen), a tram driver. The couple live in a small, modestly furnished apartment in Helsinki. As they both come home from work late one night, Lauri surprises Ilona with a new television which he purchased on store credit. There is a short discussion between the two regarding their ability to meet their financial obligations but they agree that the TV payments are manageable.

Next day, as Lauri gets to work, he learns that the company will be laying off several workers due to non-profitability of certain tram routes and he is randomly chosen as one of the workers to be laid off. The day after Lauri has finished working his last scheduled shift Ilona is informed by the owner of Dubrovnik that the restaurant is being sold to a chain restaurant company and all the employees will be let go since the new company will be bringing in its own employees.

Both of them set out looking for work immediately but with discouraging results. Lauri gets offered a job as a bus driver but is unable to pass the medical exam and subsequently loses his professional driver's licence. Ilona gets a job at a rundown bar/restaurant which doesn't even have a name and is owned by a tax evading crook. After 6 weeks of working there, the restaurant gets shut down by the state and Ilona does not get paid by the dishonest owner.

During their search for meaningful employment, both Lauri and Ilona enter bouts of heavy-drinking, all the while running into their former co-workers who are dealing with similar difficulties. At one point, the two even sell their car and take the money to a casino in hopes of doubling the money but they, however, end up losing it all. Most of their furniture as well as the new TV that Lauri bought is repossessed by the creditors.

One day, Ilona accidentally runs into Mrs Sjöholm (Elina Salo), her former boss. Sjöholm suggests that Ilona should open up a restaurant. Since Ilona does not have the financial means needed for such a venture, Sjöholm agrees to provide the capital for the restaurant to start operating with the understanding that Ilona will pay back the loan to Mrs Sjöholm. Ilona, humbled by her recent experiences, is initially reluctant to accept the offer for fear of the restaurant failing and her not being able to repay Mrs Sjöholm. She eventually does agree.

Ilona names the restaurant Work and hires some of the staff from Dubrovnik, including the troubled chef Lajunen (Markku Peltola), plus Lauri. Filled with anxiety during a slow lunch hour on opening day, Ilona's worries quickly disappear as she watches the restaurant fill to capacity later the same afternoon. After receiving a call from a Helsinki union asking for a reservation for 30 people, Lauri and Ilona exit the restaurant and stand on the front steps appearing emotionless and looking at the skies as more people enter the restaurant.

Cast and characters


Critical response

Although the film was not as widely distributed as an average Hollywood feature and, as a result, was not a commercial success to the same extent, it was well received by film critics worldwide while also winning several major film awards. As of 5 February 2008, the aggregate review website Rotten Tomatoes only registered 9 reviews for the film, all of which were positive and averaged a 7.1 rating out of a possible 10.[4] Film critic Roger Ebert awarded the film three-and-a-half stars out of 4, all the while praising Kaurismäki's "subtle irony" and challenging the widely accepted description of Kaurismäki as a minimalist by offering his opinion that the "screen is saturated with images and ideas".[5] Damian Cannon of Movie Reviews UK awarded the film 4 stars out of 5 calling it "an examination of life and how to survive misfortune, unscrupulous characters and your own lack of foresight" and concluding that "Kaurismäki succeeds impressively".[6]




See also


  1. "Drifting Clouds". British Board of Film Classification.
  2. Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
  3. "39 Countries Hoping for Oscar Nominations". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. 13 November 1996. Archived from the original on 9 February 1999. Retrieved 5 October 2015.CS1 maint: unfit url (link)
  4. Drifting Clouds, Rotten Tomatoes. Accessed 5 February 2008.
  5. Ebert, Roger. Drifting Clouds, Chicago Sun-Times, 10 July 1998. Accessed 5 February 2008.
  6. Cannon, Damian. Kauas pilvet karkaavat (1996)(aka Drifting Clouds): A review by Damian Cannon Archived 1 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Movie Reviews UK, 1997. Accessed 5 February 2008.
  7. "Festival de Cannes: Drifting Clouds". Festival de Cannes. Retrieved 16 September 2009.
  8. Awards given to Aki Kaurismäki, Orimattila Town Library, 6 March 2008. Accessed 23 February 2009.
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