SXSW 2022 Review: The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic

It’s a long and unique title, but The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic is also something that is rarely seen in the movie industry these days. It’s a refreshing, humorous, and sweet look at someone who has lost their sight and has so few connections to the outside world. What makes it stand out is the fact that its star, Petri Poikolainen, is blind and has multiple sclerosis in real life. It makes the performance by Poikolainen that much more authentic, as he does things such as scrolling through his phone trying to search for a certain emoji or text. Or when his character, Jaakko, falls out of his wheelchair, the emotions he displays are that much more real.

Jaakko was not born blind. Over the years, as his health condition worsened, it led him to be paralyzed from the chest down and his vision started to fade. When he could see, he was an avid movie watcher. Through many phone conversations he has with Sirpa (Marjanna Maijala), a woman he met online but has yet to meet in real life, he mentions that he imagines her as Ripley, the heroine of the original Alien franchise played by Sigourney Weaver. When his caregiver pays a visit, he says he envisions her as Annie Wilkes from Misery or Nurse Ratched from One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  The two directors he constantly references are John Carpenter (pre-’90s) and James Cameron. Of course, Jaakko tells Sirpa that he has never seen Titanic, nor does he have plans to.

Jaakko decides that he wants to catch the train to finally meet Sirpa in real life. Both have a history of health issues, but their connection over the phone has brought each other comfort. The only problem is Jaakko has so few resources that will assist him there and off the train. But his determination to meet Sirpa will not stop what limitations he has.

Writer/director Teemu Nikki doesn’t try to make The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic as some glossy, awards-bait type of movie. Nikki plays the plot straightforward, just letting Poikolainen play his part and showing the viewer how Jaakko views the world. Most of the shots are extreme close-ups of Jaakko, with the rest of the scene around him being a blur. Not once does Nikki pull the camera back to get a more in-focused shot of something dramatic, nor are there any establishing shots to show the current location Jaakko is at.

Every so often, another character may enter the scene. But, as Jaakko is unable to see their face, Nikki refrains from bringing them into focus. It’s beautifully done, and there’s never a moment where Nikki tries to pull off any kind of trickery to make the scene any more impactful than it already is.

Jaakko’s love for the movies and cinema as a whole comes across as wholesome. It makes his character that much more lovable, even as he faces discrimination and bad assumptions from those around him. Nikki doesn’t hammer the message to the viewer repeatedly; he inserts it at the appropriate moments just long enough for it to be noticed.

The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic is a marvelous effort. It’s simple and minimalistic in its approach, but it’s also something that will leave a smile on your face when it ends.

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David Wangberg

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