Le Havre (film)

Le Havre is a 2011 comedy-drama film produced, written, and directed by Aki Kaurismäki and starring André Wilms, Kati Outinen, Jean-Pierre Darroussin and Blondin Miguel. It tells the story of a shoeshiner who tries to save an immigrant child in the French port city Le Havre.[2] The film was produced by Kaurismäki's Finnish company Sputnik with international co-producers in France and Germany. It is Kaurismäki's second French-language film, after La Vie de Bohème from 1992.

Le Havre
Festival poster
Directed byAki Kaurismäki
Produced byAki Kaurismäki
Written byAki Kaurismäki
CinematographyTimo Salminen
Edited byTimo Linnasalo
  • Sputnik
  • Pyramide Productions
  • Pandora Film
Distributed byFuture Film Distribution
Release date
Running time
93 minutes
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
Budget€ 3.8 million
Box office$12,944,958[1]

The film premiered in competition at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, where it received the FIPRESCI Prize. Kaurismäki envisions it as the first installment in a trilogy about life in port cities. His ambition is to make follow-ups set in Spain and Germany, shot in the local languages.[3]


Marcel Marx, a former bohemian and struggling author, has given up his literary ambitions and relocated to the port city Le Havre. He leads a simple life based around his wife Arletty, his favourite bar and his not too profitable profession as a shoeshiner. As Arletty suddenly becomes seriously ill, Marcel's path crosses with an underage illegal immigrant from Africa. Marcel and friendly neighbors and other townspeople help to hide him from the police. The police inspector may, or may not, be hot on their heels.[4]



Kaurismäki had the idea of a film about an African child who arrives in Europe three years before the production started.[5] His original intention was to set the story on the Mediterranean coast, preferably in Italy or Spain, but he had difficulties finding a suitable city. According to Kaurismäki, he "drove through the whole seafront from Genoa to Holland", and eventually settled on Le Havre in northern France, which attracted him with its atmosphere and music scene.[6][7]

The script was written in the summer 2009.[8] The names of several characters were chosen as homages to French film icons, such as Arletty and Jacques Becker. The name of the lead character, Marcel Marx, was inspired by Karl Marx. The character had previously appeared in Kaurismäki's 1992 film La Vie de Bohème, where he also was played by André Wilms. The character Monet was inspired by Porfiry Petrovich, the detective from Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment.[7]

The budget was 3.8 million euro and included 750,000 euro in support from the Finnish Film Foundation.[9] Kaurismäki's company Sputnik was the main producer, with Finnish broadcaster Yle, France's Pyramide Productions and Germany's Pandora Film as co-producers.[8] The local rock singer Little Bob was cast in the film; Kaurismäki said that "Le Havre is the Memphis, Tennessee of France and Little Bob a.k.a. Roberto Piazza is the Elvis of this Kingdom as long as Johnny Hallyday stays in Paris and even then it would be a nice fight."[6] Filming started 23 March and ended 12 May 2010.[10]


Le Havre premiered on 17 May 2011 in competition at the 64th Cannes Film Festival.[11] It was the fourth time a film by Kaurismäki competed at the festival, after Drifting Clouds, The Man Without a Past and Lights in the Dusk.[12] The Finnish premiere was on 9 September 2011 through Future Film Distribution.[13] Pyramide Distribution released it in France on 21 December of the same year.[14] Janus Films acquired the American distribution rights.[15]

Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a "Certified Fresh" rating of 99%, based on reviews from 89 critics, with an average rating of 7.7/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Aki Kaurismäki's deadpan wit hits a graceful note with Le Havre, a comedy/drama that's sweet, sad, and uplifting in equal measure."[16] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 82 out of 100, based on 26 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[17]

Leslie Felperin wrote in Variety: "It's all rather jolly and slight, and certainly doesn't break any new ground for the Finnish auteur, even though it foregrounds more influences than usual from French filmmakers like Marcel Carné (obvious, given the protagonists' names), Jean-Pierre Melville, Robert Bresson and others. But on its own terms, Le Havre is a continual pleasure, seamlessly blending morose and merry notes with a deftness that's up there with Kaurismäki's best comic work." Felperin complimented the craft of Kaurismäki's regular cinematographer Timo Salminen and editor Timo Linnasalo, and wrote: "It's like listening to a band that's been cheerfully churning it out for years, whose members all know each other's timings inside out, not unlike onscreen performers Little Bob and his grizzled, perfectly in-sync crew."[18]


The film received the FIPRESCI Prize for best film at the Cannes Film Festival. It also received a Special Mention from the Ecumenical Jury.[19] The dog Laika received a special Jury Prize from the Palm Dog jury.[20] The film went on to win the top prize for best international film at the 2011 Munich International Film Festival.[21] It was selected as a nominee for the European Parliament's Lux Prize.[22] The film was selected as the Finnish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 84th Academy Awards,[23][24] but it did not make the final shortlist.[25] Le Havre also won the Gold Hugo at the Chicago International Film Festival.

See also


  1. "Le Havre (2011) - Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
  2. Smith, Ian Hayden (2012). International Film Guide 2012. p. 114. ISBN 978-1908215017.
  3. Svanbäck, Andrea (24 May 2011). "'Som tur finns alltid gårdagen'". Hufvudstadsbladet (in Swedish). Archived from the original on 2 October 2011. Retrieved 27 July 2011.
  4. "Synopsis" (PDF). English press kit Le Havre. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  5. Staff writer (17 April 2010). "Le Havre, tout un film". paris-normandie.fr (in French). Paris-Normandie. Archived from the original on 5 September 2012. Retrieved 18 April 2010.
  6. Masson, Christine (2011). "Interview with Aki Kaurismäki" (PDF). English press kit Le Havre. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  7. Le Fol, Sébastien (18 May 2011). "La France d'Aki Kaurismäki". Le Figaro (in French). Retrieved 22 May 2011.
  8. Staff writer (19 February 2010). "Aki Kaurismäki Speaks Français In New Film". nordiskfilmogtvfond.com. Nordisk Film & TV Fond. Retrieved 1 April 2010.
  9. Staf writer (16 February 2010). "Kaurismäki får 750 000 euro till sin nya film". YLE Nyheter (in Swedish). Yle. Retrieved 1 April 2010.
  10. Staff writer (17 February 2010). "Synopsis des prochains tournages dans la cité". paris-normandie.fr (in French). Paris-Normandie. Archived from the original on 7 September 2012. Retrieved 1 April 2010.
  11. "Horaires 2011" (PDF). festival-cannes.com (in French). Cannes Film Festival. Retrieved 17 May 2011.
  12. Suárez López, Gonzalo (20 April 2011). "Von Trier and Kaurismäki lead strong Nordic contingent". Cineuropa. Retrieved 22 May 2011.
  13. "Le Havre". ses.fi. Finnish Film Foundation. Archived from the original on 18 July 2011. Retrieved 15 February 2011.
  14. "Le Havre". AlloCiné (in French). Tiger Global. Retrieved 27 July 2011.
  15. Kay, Jeremy (26 July 2011). "Cannes hits Le Havre, Habemus Papam find US homes". Screen Daily. Retrieved 27 July 2011.
  16. "Le Havre (2011)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  17. "Le Havre Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved 27 March 2017.
  18. Felperin, Leslie (17 May 2011). "Le Havre". Variety. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  19. Hopewell, John (21 May 2011). "'Le Havre' win top Fipresci crits' award". Variety. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  20. Nissim, Mayer (21 May 2011). "'The Artist' Uggy wins 2011 'Palm Dog'". Digital Spy. Retrieved 22 May 2011.
  21. Roxborough, Scott (4 July 2011). "Aki Kaurismaki's 'Le Havre,' Paddy Considine's 'Tyrannosaur' Win Big In Munich". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 4 July 2011.
  22. Holdsworth, Nick (3 July 2011). "Euro Parliament Lux lineup unveiled". Variety. Retrieved 4 July 2011.
  23. Barraclough, Leo (14 September 2011). "Kaurismaki's 'Le Havre' to rep Finland at Oscars". Variety. Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  24. "63 Countries Vie for 2011 Foreign Language Film Oscar". oscars.org. Archived from the original on 21 May 2012. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
  25. "9 Foreign Language Films Vie for Oscar". Archived from the original on 21 May 2012. Retrieved 19 January 2012.
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