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.
- Release Date: 9/9/2019