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Beanpole Review: A Dark Depressing Brooding Discourse On Desire!

Beanpole(Russian, Amazon Prime  Video)

Starring  Viktoria MiroshnichenkoVasilisa Perelygina

Directed  by Kantemir Balagov

Rating: *** ½

There is  no easy way  of saying this. But for us worshippers  worldcinema   the lockdown is  a boon. Films that  we  would not have access to immediately, are now coming straight to us on homeviewing medium, and  some of this is  exceptional enough to make  us forget the hard times we are  living in.

Beanpole is a very strange name for a Russian  masterpiece about two women  friends, both soldiers  in post-ravage  Leningrad after World War 2 struggling to come to terms  with their  torn and tormented  lives.Beanpole or  no, this is  not  an  easy journey to follow as  the two women, compatriots and lovers, battle their inner demons  even as the booming guns outside are scarcely  silenced.

It’s a chaotic  wartorn zone,with the  ruins everywhere  suggesting a life that has no relvance beyond survival. Yet there is  compassion and  love  lurking beneath the  debris of  destruction.  When we first  first meet  Iya(Viktoria Miroshnichenko)  known among her colleagues and  friends as  Beanpole for her exceptional tallness(I am sure  the  actress wasn’t  chosen for her height, nowhere  does the casting suggest any compromise), is  playing a blissful mother to a 3-year old who , we get to know, soon is not her own  child .The  doctors  and patients in  the severely austere  hospital where Iya works as a nurse, keep the child entertained  mimicking various animals. When someone  does a woof-woof ,someone else  asks, “How would the child know what a  dog is? All  the   dogs have been eaten.”

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From early  on  this film spares us none  of  the grimness,  the  horror and hunger of  a post-War Russia. In a shocking  preamble,  the  child dies  suddenly and Iya is left guilt-stricken and eternally answerable  to the child’s mother her  only  friend Masha(Vasilisa Perelygina).

The  rest of this unbearably  grim drama sees the sins  of  slaying been atoned for with prcocreative  efforts that  shut the sunshine completely out of  the narrative. This is a worfully  cheerless drama . Contradictorily  the  bleak grim  silently-accusing  granite  frames are  splashed with striking colours…Masha dancing frenziedly in a green dress, a  trickle of red  blood at the the corner  of  Iya’s chronically curled up mouth? Does she  ever smile? Do these women any clue  about the  brightness  that exists outside their darkened cordoned existence?

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The  film grows  progressively dark and despairing. At one point Iya is forced by Masha  to  have procreational sex with an aging  reluctant  doctor,  because, well, Iya owes her friend an  insurmountable  debt. The  shadows  of guilt forever cloud the lives   of the two women. There are no  glimmers  of joy or hope here. A  callow young obsessed  boy who wants to marry Masha takes her home to meet  his parents. The lengthy  plodding  sequence  ends  on a horribly  awkward and  frustrating note. There  are silver  lining to this canvas  of cumulative clouds. Even when the  two women  lovers finally come to a  truce  there is  no happiness in their reunion.

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Beanpole tells us that sadness and  bereavement are all that we have after the war with the visible or invisible enemy is over. At the end we are left with nothing  but regret. Russian  director Kantemir Balagov finds  himself a place among the world’s greatest directors with this film. Watch it. It  won’t make you happy. But  it will leave  you feeling  curiously clenched  and  cleansed.

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