'Beanpole' showcases a hauntingly realistic depiction of 1945 Leningrad, Russia, in the immediate months after the Second World War. The story centres around two female characters, Iya and Masha, each attempting to find their own idea of meaning and hope in this seemingly hopeless landscape. It is an extremely slow experience that takes its time with the viewer to create an unforgettable feeling that becomes burned into the viewers' minds.
The film opens with a shot of Iya having one of her PTSD caused freezing moments, and promptly establishes the tone and spirit of the film to come. In each of these 'freezing moments', the sound design is especially remarkable and it is felt as though we're being frozen alongside her. It quite literally took your breath away, and in some cases I had to actually remind myself to breath because of these stunning sequences. One of my favourite scenes in which this occurs, is where Iya's adoptive toddler son (named Pashka) and herself are play-fighting on the floor, and while Iya is on on top of Pashka, she freezes up, this time for a few minutes. It's a mesmerisingly gruesome yet beautiful long shot where all that's being shown is Iya's frozen-in-time back and Pashka's tiny hands clawing for freedom as he suffocates to death beneath Iya's weight. "Less is more" and in this scene (and the film as a whole) this is a key ideology of the director. The situation as a whole doesn't need to be shown such as showing the little boy's face, as all the audience needs to see is his hands grasping for air accentuated by the whimpers he lets out as he slowly suffocates. It gives the viewer more of an ambiguous, powerful emotion. This is just one of MANY amazing scenes that were simply so mesmerising it's hard to describe.
From the opening moments of the film until much after the credits have rolled, it's as if the movie places the viewer into an inescapable chokehold, where it demands all of your attention and nothing less. The use of sound design, cinematography and the flawlessly 'human' acting from every character creates an atmosphere like no other.
The colour palette is something that I took note of as well. The film boasts an uplifting yet also depressing spectrum of primary colours in its presentation. The colours red, green and yellow were used extremely frequently (along with other 'cheerful' sort of colours) but to me the colours themselves seemed almost 'drained' and had lost their soul. The colours were all pastel and even though the actual colour was a happy one, the tone of the colour certainly wasn't. I believe the colours represented what "could have been" had the situation that the city is currently in not occurred. The joyful colours show such a contrast to what's being shown on screen, and the 'drained' feel to them with the pastel is a bleak reminder of their situation. It's as though all the happiness has been taken away from the environment and characters, which adds to the overall feel of the movie, and assists in creating a unique atmosphere.
Although many critics have quoted that the film is much too slow with little action for their taste, in my opinion this adds to the hopeless ambience being presented. It feels as though you, the audience, are alongside the characters and feel their struggle for each moment that it's happening, which is something I must applaud the film-makers for.
This is certainly not a film for everyone, being much too slow for a mainstream audience's taste, but for those who can take some time to feel the atmosphere of the setting being shown to them, this is a true masterpiece of cinema and will stick with you for many days after you've watched it.
I give 'Beanpole' a 10/10 and it is certainly one of the very best films 2019 has to offer.
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