Beanpole | Credit: Courtesy

In this remarkable, unique film — this year’s Oscar bid from Russia — post WWII life is not at all pretty, but it is flecked with alternating currents of hope and despair, as well as a palpable desire for healing and resolution. Winner of last year’s Cannes Festival Best Director award, Kantemir Bagalov has concocted a stunning film, about the twined destinies of two young women — Iya (“Beanpole”) and Masha, powerfully played by Viktoria Miroshnichenko and Vasilisa Perelygina — damaged in various ways during the war. A paralyzed sniper seeks to end his “emptied” life, our heroines seek to find escape from their post-war freeze, and Iya is tasked with giving life and death. Agony meets ecstasy, and back again, often conveyed in subtle gestures and nuanced facial expressions. It’s a haunting film, but on emotionally embedded terms rather than via explicit violence, which draws us into its world with its visual poetry of long takes, empathic close-ups, and several memorable-verging-on-unforgettable scenes along the tale’s dizzying path.


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