The Museum of Modern Art Presents Ilkka Järvi-Laturi
The Museum of Modern Art will be screening films from the late Finnish writer-director Ilkka Järvi-Laturi with the film series Ilkka Järvi-Laturi. The maverick Finnish writer-director Ilkka Järvi-Laturi, who passed away in March of 2023, leaves behind a small but fascinating and idiosyncratic body of work that straddles late-1980s Cold War anxieties about the threat of nuclear annihilation and a kind of hard-won, punkish humanism that bloomed after the fall of the Iron Curtain. His signature film, the 1993 noir-comedy-thriller City Unplugged (aka Darkness in Tallinn), follows a group of haggard thieves as they attempt to turn off the lights in the Estonian capital and rob the newly independent country’s treasury, strong-arming a hapless electrician into helping them just as his wife is about to go into labor. The international success of City Unplugged led Järvi-Laturi to try his hand at bigger-budget projects in the US, culminating in what would be his final film, the beleaguered History Is Made at Night (aka Spy Games) (1999), starring Bill Pullman and Irène Jacob. While these later films combine the geopolitical concerns of the Cold War with a bone-dry, mischievous sense of humor, Järvi-Laturi’s feature debut, Kotia Pain (or Homebound) (1989), is a chilling crime melodrama, an unsparing portrait of small-town Finland as a place with few opportunities for the young, where hardened ex-cons and alcoholics bump elbows with aspirant yuppies.
This memorial retrospective—the first time Järvi-Laturi’s three directorial efforts have screened together in the US—also includes a rare screening of Rauni Mollberg’s 1985 adaptation of Väinö Linna’s epic World War II novel The Unknown Soldier, a career springboard on which Järvi-Laturi served as both a cast member and assistant to the director.