Beanpole was the 2020 Russian submission for the Best Foreign Language film at the Oscars. Set in Leningrad in 1945 after WWII was over, it is very much a war movie, in the great old Russian tradition. But at the same time, for reasons that will become obvious when you watch it, it is a movie that couldn't have been made during Soviet times.
Brutal and fragile at the same time, Beanpole is a movie you'll find hard to forget. It's the emotional equivalent of a street fight, with a heavy weight boxer pinning you in a corner and delivering blow after merciless blow, as the movie probes the depths of human pain, despair, and misery. Very soon it becomes unbearable, and yet, you cannot remove your gaze, because right in front of you, like the most beautiful and delicate Russian ballet ever, is a spectacle of love and hope, as the human spirit finds the power to move forward, awkwardly, despite all the trauma.
The director Kantemir Balagov is 29. Ksenia Sereda, the woman behind the camera, is 26. And the two main actresses are at their very first movie. Yet, you'll not know the meaning of the words "superb acting" until you watch Beanpole.
3 of 5 stars
The story is not realistic, director is too young to understand this type of emotions.
5 of 5 stars
It's so real that sometimes it becomes unreal.
5 of 5 stars
Brilliant. I was beyond impressed, beyond amazed by this phenomenal, enthralling, masterful piece of screenwriting & filmmaking. Thank you Kantemir Balagov. You have the skills & vision to be a creator of brilliant, transfixing films for years to come. The performances were stellar pretty much all around, but the two leads each gave a masterclass in acting. Balagov is a true auteur (genius?) in the making, it would appear.
5 of 5 stars
Beanpole is like walking into one of Johanne Vermeer's masterpieces. Lush, masterful, profound, and overwhelming with its art and beauty. The best movie I have seen in 2019. Highly recommend.
3 of 5 stars
Very bleak and somewhat compelling – a film I admired more than I liked
Written by Kantemir Balagov and Aleksandr Terekhov and directed by Balagov, Dylda is inspired by (although not based on) The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich, an oral history of the experiences of Russian women who fought during World War II. We've seen countless stories (many of them superb) about men who have fought in war, only to find themselves unable to reintegrate into society upon the cessation of combat, but Dylda is the story of two such women. And whilst one has to admire the emotional and ideological sincerity of the filmmakers, and the craft on display, for me, Dylda was a somewhat disappointing experience, adding up to something quite a bit less than the sum of its (often exceptional) individual parts.
Leningrad, 1945. As the film begins, we're introduced to Iya (an astonishing debut by Viktoriya Miroshnichenko), a former soldier invalided out of active duty several years prior. Shy and socially awkward, Iya suffers from a severe case of concussion-induced PTSD that manifests itself as random episodes of total paralysis. A nurse in a hospital for wounded soldiers, she lives in a small one-room apartment with her son, Pashka (Timofey Glazkov). Meanwhile, Masha (Vasilisa Perelygina, in the film's second exceptional debut performance), who served with Iya, returns to Leningrad unexpectedly. Suffering from her own PTSD, which causes her to be cruel and selfish, Masha learns of a horrific accident recently experienced by Iya, and so begins to push her along a path of rectification that could destroy both of them.
Aesthetically, you'd be hard pushed to find fault with Dylda, with Sergey Ivanov's production design especially laudable. The film is mainly confined to the hospital where Iya works, her apartment, and the nearby streets, with each location telling its own story – the hospital is grim and underfinanced, the apartment is modest but homely, and the streets are cold and alienating, the aftereffects of the Siege still very much apparent. Despite everything looking completely authentic, the exteriors weren't shot on location, but were sets built for the film, making it all the more impressive. Olga Smirnova's costume design is also exceptional, working in tandem with the production design to create an over-all tone. This tone is helped immeasurably by the avoidance of colour - the film's palette is extremely drab, dominated by grey, dirty yellows, some white, and, especially, a sickly green. There are virtually no blues, purples, or reds for much of the film. Indeed, the most colourful moment is literally the very last image.
Also in terms of the aesthetic, Balagov and cinematographer Kseniya Sereda often shoot in very long takes, affording the audience nowhere to hide from the suffering on screen. One notable example of this is a scene depicting one of the most harrowing and disturbing deaths I've ever seen – a scene which goes on and on and on without a single edit, driving home the abject horror of what we're witnessing. Balagov's intention with shots like this is obvious enough – horror and pain shouldn't be sugar-coated but presented in all their unpleasantness.
Thematically, the film is about broken people trying to put themselves back together, much as the city around them is trying to do the same. The fact that the siege was lifted and the Germans defeated means relatively little in the day-to-day. The Leningrad of the film is a place where many of the norms of society have eroded, where any sense of Utilitarianism has become secondary to the mechanics of survival. A good illustration of the condition of the city is found when Iya brings Pasha to the hospital to amuse the soldiers by making animal sounds. However, when one soldier asks him to bark like a dog, he doesn't seem to understand, and another soldier points out, "where would he have seen a dog? They've all been eaten." Very rare is it that we see such an unrelentingly bleak depiction of the utter ruination of war.
For all its laudable aesthetic elements and thematic complexity, however, I was disappointed with Dylda. I have no problem with bleak stories; in fact, generally speaking, I'm drawn more to bleakness and pessimism regarding the human condition, not just in cinema, but so too in fiction, theatre, poetry, and painting. However, I found the film too long, with it feeling padded in places, especially in the sense that Balagov tends to let scenes run a few beats longer than they need to. The aforementioned death scene is very long, but it works because of the length, affording the audience no respite. Other scenes, however, simply run long without much in the way of thematic justification. On occasion, Balagov can also be far too didactic, overstating emotions and literalising internal conflicts. At the same time, some of the most important plot points come across as contrived. Additional, the film is both front and end-loaded, with the best scenes and most interesting themes coming in the first and last acts. Unfortunately, much of what's in between is unfocused and flabby.
Dylda won Best Director and Best Film in the Un certain regard section at Cannes and it was Russia's entry for Best International Film for the 2020 Academy Awards, and is expected to make the final five nominees. So, I freely admit I'm swimming against the tide in saying I didn't really like it. I can certainly celebrate its craft, its thematic sophistication (that Balagov is only 28 seems almost impossible given the thematic maturity), its acting, and the way it isn't even remotely interested in conforming to prescriptions adopted by more mainstream films. And ultimately, although I didn't especially like Dylda, and was somewhat disappointed by it, I certainly admired the hell out of.
3 of 5 stars
Oyunculuklar gerçekten güzeldi.Sarı yeşil tonlarının filme hakimiyeti çok güzel olmuş.Süresi biraz uzundu genel olarak beğendim.
3.5 of 5 stars
Aesthetically brilliant it is surely the biggest work of only 27 year old director.
The script and the dialogues have some minor flaws, as well as actors' play from time to time, but the atmosphere of the post-war drama is shown at its best.