He tackles big issues but can’t resist adding jokes, once turning Hamlet into a story about rubber ducks. As The Other Side of Hope hits cinemas, the Finnish director talks about lazy actors, parking tickets – and his Holby City addiction

Twice a year, Aki Kaurismäki climbs into his battered blue Volvo and drives from his home in a Portuguese village all the way to Helsinki. “When I was young, with my Cadillac and lousy roads, it took three days,” says the 60-year-old Finnish director. “Now, with good roads, at my age it takes five.” A shrug. What does he play on the journey? “Otis Redding. Dylan. Finnish tango. I haven’t bought new music in 20 years.”

Helsinki is the setting for most of his humane and poker-faced comedies, including The Man Without a Past, which won the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2002, and his latest gem, The Other Side of Hope. The story of a stoical restaurateur who takes a Syrian asylum-seeker under his wing, it won him the best director prize in Berlin earlier this year. Did he enjoy the festival? “Three days in a room. No smoking.” He gives me a you-do-the-maths look. “At least I had my wine.” He has his wine now, too, though he is going easy because he has to drive his dog to the vet for a knee operation.

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