Ilkka Järvi-Laturi

Feb 9–17, 2024

MoMA

Tallinn pimeduses (City Unplugged). 1993. Estonia/Finland/Sweden/USA. Directed by Ilkka Järvi-Laturi. Courtesy of KAVI
  • MoMA, Floor T2/T1 The Debra and Leon Black Family Film Center

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.

Organized by Dave Kehr, Curator, with Steve Macfarlane, Department Assistant, Department of Film. Thanks to Elina Lind, Hisami Kuroiwa, John Maher, Sofi Nevakivi, Timo Lahtinen, Kerry Rock, Jonathan Karlsen, H.T. Nuotio, Hannu Björkbacka, Tommi Partanen of Finland's National Audiovisual Institute (KAVI) and the Consulate General of Finland in New York.

Film at MoMA is made possible by CHANEL.

Additional support is provided by the Annual Film Fund. Leadership support for the Annual Film Fund is provided by Debra and Leon D. Black, with major contributions from the Triad Foundation, Inc., The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art, Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder, the Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP), The Young Patrons Council of The Museum of Modern Art, and by Karen and Gary Winnick.

Licensing

If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit https://www.moma.org/research/circulating-film.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].

Feedback

This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].