TIFF 2019: Our Review of ‘Beanpole’

TIFF 2019: Our Review of ‘Beanpole’

Kino is the Russian word for cinema; a loaded term developed out of passionate theory from those such as Dziga Vertov, and since co-opted into a silly meme. Therefore, might I cheekily suggest that Kantemir Balagov’s second feature Beanpole, isn’t so much pure cinema as it is pure kino. This is, I swear, the only I time I will ever use such a phrase semi-ironically.

Based off of the Nobel Prize winning book The Unwomanly Face of War, Balagov story takes place in Soviet Leningrad months after the Second World War. Iya (Viktoria Miroshnichenko) is a nurse looking after her comrade Masha’s (Vasilia Perelygina) child. She is prone to an acute form of PTSD that results in occasional spells where her whole body will simply freeze-up, rendering her incapable of the simplest motions. The two must find a way in a rebuilding society that cares little about their survival and well-being.

Aside from Portrait of a Lady on Fire, there are few period pieces from this year that reach Beanpole’s echelon of exquisiteness. Balagov’s set design, celluloid-like aesthetic, and rich use of colour, create a visual cacophony that pulls you through what is a very harrowing film. Fair warning, this exists with a pointedly European sensibility that is willing to show the world at its cruelest. But in the end, it is a very empathetic picture that deeply cares about its characters. This is not the easiest of watches, but it has the potential to be a truly rewarding experience.

This post was written by
Thomas Wishloff is currently an MA student at York University. He is new to the Toronto Film Scene, but has periodically written and podcasted for several now defunct ventures, and has probably commented on a forum with you at some point. The ex-Edmontonian has been known to enjoy a good board game, and claims to know the secret to the best popcorn in the world.
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