"The Match Factory Girl" is the third film in Kaurismaki's Proletariat Trilogy. It follows "Shadows in Paradise," about a aimless garbage collector and "Ariel" (1988), about a coal miner who escapes his subterranean work by turning to crime. The three films have been packaged together and released by Criterion.

''The Match Factory Girl'' opens with production line in a factory that follows the stages in which wood get treated to get to the final product at the end of line, which is box of matches. At the end of this long mechanical chain stands Iris  making certain the mailing labels are stuck securely on the boxes.

The Match Factory Girl (1990) Opening Sequence

She pays rent to her mother and stepfather to sleep on the couch. She puts on cheap makeup, goes to a dance only to find herself  the only woman left sitting against the wall at end of the evening
One day she makes a bold step ,without knowledge of her parents she takes part of her paycheck  to buy a cheap-looking red-flowered dress in which she goes to a dance.

This poor girl. I wanted to reach out my arms and hug her. That was during the first half of "The Match Factory Girl." Then my sympathy began to wane. By the end of the film, I think it's safe to say Iris gives as good as she gets.
The Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki fascinates me. I am never sure if he intends us to laugh or cry with his characters--both, I suppose. He often portrays unremarkable lives of unrelenting grimness, sadness, desolation. When his characters are not tragic, he elevates them to such levels as stupidity, cluelessness, self-delusion or mental illness. Iris, the match factory girl, incorporates all of these attributes.
"This cannot be tragedy because she lacks the stature to be a heroine. It cannot be comedy because she doesn't get the joke. What can it be?"

Aki Kaurismäki-Criterion Collection >>>


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