Finnish actor Sakari Kuosmanen has said that Aki Kaurismäki’s films are equal parts comedy, tragedy, and satire.

His newest film, Fallen Leaves (Kuolleet Lehdet), which won the Jury Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, seems to blur the distinction between these characteristics, so that particular moments might seem funny, sad and satirical all at once.

Alma Pöysti and Jussi Vatanen in Fallen Leaves

Kaurismäki says that Fallen Leaves forms the ‘fourth part’ of his Proletarian Trilogy which comprises Shadows in Paradise (Varjoja paratiisissa (1986), Ariel (1988) and 1990’s The Match Factory Girl (Tulitikkutehtaan tyttö. Those early films traced the uneventful lives and relationships of working-class characters in dead-end jobs in an unsympathetic, capitalistic world.

The story in Fallen Leaves bears similarities to that in Shadows in Paradise in that it follows a man and woman as they meet and slowly develop a relationship.

In Fallen Leaves, Ansa (Alma Pöysti) works at a supermarket, checking expiry dates on food and discarding expired products, and her role appears to reflect on the excessive wastage of food typical of overzealous supermarket chains....