The Match Factory Girl

The Match Factory Girl (Finnish: Tulitikkutehtaan tyttö) is a 1990 Finnish-Swedish film edited, written, co-produced, and directed by Aki Kaurismäki, the final installment of his Proletariat Trilogy, after his Shadows in Paradise and Ariel.[2] It follows Iris, a young, plain-looking factory worker living a lonely, impoverished and uneventful life in late 1980s Finland. Iris is played by Kati Outinen, who had appeared in a number of other Kaurismäki films.

The Match Factory Girl
VHS cover
Directed byAki Kaurismäki
Produced by
Written byAki Kaurismäki
CinematographyTimo Salminen
Edited byAki Kaurismäki
Distributed byFinnkino
Release date
  • 12 January 1990 (1990-01-12)
Running time
69 minutes[1]
  • Finland
  • Sweden
Box officeSEK 131,180 (Sweden)


Iris is a rather plain woman who lives with and helps support her mother and stepfather. She has a hard time attracting men, but one evening at the local dance club she meets Aarne, who thinks she's a prostitute, although Iris does not realize that. They spend the night together, and Aarne leaves the next morning before Iris awakes. Iris arranges for a second date with Aarne, and introduces him to her parents. During the date, Aarne harshly informs her that he does not desire her affection, and she leaves crying. Iris later discovers that she is pregnant, and writes to Aarne a letter asking him to raise the child with her. She receives a letter back simply stating "Get rid of the brat," along with a check for 10,000 marks. Iris becomes distraught and goes outside, leaving the letter and check on the table, where her mother finds them. While wandering around upset, Iris is hit by a car and she has a miscarriage. Her stepfather visits Iris in the hospital and tells her she must move out of the apartment, because she has disappointed her mother.

Iris moves in with her brother and becomes more despondent and upset with her situation. She buys rat poison, mixes it with water, and puts it into a small bottle, which she puts into her purse. She goes to Aarne's apartment and tells him she wants a drink. Aarne brings the drinks, but Iris asks for ice, and when Aarne goes to get it, Iris pours some of the rat poison into his drink. When Aarne returns with the ice, he places it in Iris's glass. She tells him that everything is taken care of and that he need not worry, because this will be the last time he will ever see her. She hands him the check he'd sent, quickly drinks most of her drink, and leaves. Aarne sits quietly for a few moments, then he drinks his drink.

On the way home from Aarne's place, Iris stops into a bar, orders a beer, takes a seat at the bar, and starts to read a book. A man sits beside her, uninvited, and tries to catch her attention. Iris smiles at the man, takes the bottle of rat poison out of her purse, and pours some into his glass. She leaves, and the man finishes his drink.

Iris visits her mother and stepfather. She prepares them a meal and pours the rest of the rat poison into the vodka they will drink. While they eat, Iris sits in the living room smoking a cigarette and listening to music. After a while she gets up to look into the dining room, where she sees her mother and stepfather are dead.

The next day at work, Iris is taken away by the police.



Critical response

On August 18, 2011, Roger Ebert added the film to his list of Great Movies. Ebert wrote that he "watched hypnotically. Few films are ever this unremittingly unyielding... What made it more mesmerizing is that it's all on the same tonal level: Iris passively endures a series of humiliations, cruelties and dismissals."[3]

Home media

The Match Factory Girl was released on a region-free Blu-ray by Future Film in Finland on December 3, 2013. The release includes five available subtitles (Swedish, English, Norwegian, and Danish in addition to Finnish) along with Kaurismäki's short film Bico, a segment of the 2004 anthology film Visions of Europe.[4]


  1. "The Match Factory Girl". British Board of Film Classification. 28 August 1990.
  2. Ebert, Roger (18 August 2011). "The Match Factory Girl Movie Review (1990)". Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  3. "The Match Factory Girl Blu-ray (Finland)". Retrieved 18 December 2017.
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