To immerse audiences in the experiences of the visually impaired seems like an unimaginable feat, given that film is inherently a visual medium. However, director Teemu Nikki’s The Blind Man Who Did Not Want To See Titanic achieves the impossible by crafting an intimate and eye-opening thriller that is cinematic to its core.
From the opening credits that are written in braille, audiences are immediately thrown into the life of Jaakko, a movie aficionado who’s grappling with blindness and MS. As he states in the film, Jaakko’s life is like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day; repeating the same daily rituals as he finds himself a prisoner in his own home. His long distance relationship with the playfully lovely Sirpa is the only connection Jaakko has to the outside world. However, when he learns of Sirpa’s potentially fatal diagnosis, Jaakko must break his routine and rely on five separate strangers on his journey to finally meet his beloved in person.
Not since Florian Zeller’s The Father has a film so completely engulfed the audience into the experiences of its protagonist. Nikki and cinematographer Sari Aaltonen shoot nearly every scene as a stunning close-up with extremely shallow focus that’s always on Jaakko’s expressive face. This allows the audience to immediately sympathize with Jaakko as they are as disoriented as he is. As such, scenes where Jaakko falls off his wheelchair or navigates through an unknown space without a walking stick are chalked full of tension. Every second, every inch is a leap of faith.
Given that there’s few visual cues to tell The Blind Man…’s narrative, the sound design team has worked with Nikki’s script to craft a nuanced and multi-faceted audible experience. Jaakko’s phone calls with Sirpa provide exposition and layers of pathos to Jaakko’s story. Once Jaakko leaves his house, the sounds of the outside world are perfectly captured and allow the audience to imagine the areas that he is traversing. The audio is so impecciable that The Blind Man could have been a narrative podcast, if the feature wasn’t so inherently cinematic.
Most importantly though, The Blind Man… is never exploitative of those with visual impairments. In fact, Nikki’s feature provides such an intimate level of insight into the blind community that it is guaranteed to make every viewer leave the film with a greater capacity for compassion. As Nikki explores in The Blind Man…, humanity can be cruel, selfish and sadistic. But he also demonstrates how simple acts of kindness, like a helping hand or a touching embrace, can change someone entire life. Jaakko’s external world may be unseen by audiences, but Nikki’s exploration of the character’s internal sense of being is unparalleled.
The Silver Lining
The Blind Man Who Did Not Want To See Titanic‘s entire concept would not be possible without Petri Poikolainen’s masterclass performance as Jaakko. Poikolainen, who suffers from the same conditions as his character, imbues Jaakko with such dimensionality through the subtlest of facial expressions. His acting is so nuanced that when Poikolainen’s boisterous third act monologue occurs, I nearly jumped out of my seat. He delivers every line with a plethora of passion and purpose. If there’s any justice in the world, Poikolainen would be on stage at next year’s Oscars to collect his leading actor statuette.
SXSW 2022 official selection, The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic, is coming soon to a screen near you.