Beanpole ★★★★

How do you quantify, present the shear human toll of suffering that Soviet Union experienced during the Second World War? What does it mean to know that between 8.8 and 10.7 million Soviets died among their armed forces and another 24 million civilians perished. And to then also realize how many of those casualties were isolated to the Westernmost portions of the country and to the critical urban battlefields of Leningrad and Stalingrad?

Beanpole is a bleak, difficult movie and through all of that bleakness it’s difficult to find something to grab onto thematically that isn’t “life just gets worse”. And normally I would really hate a film that is so encapsulated in such a cynical, painful experience. But I have to imagine, maybe that’s the only way to talk about this chapter of Russian history? After the war, life goes on, but so does the war. It lurks and stings and cuts into the lives it touched. 

What’s so striking about Beanpole is the point of realizing how young these main characters must be. And then to know how truly shattered they are. This is generational pain on an unimaginable scale. I think the screenplay and these excellent performances do well to make you really care for these characters, no matter how twisted or dark or wrought with misery their paths become. There are the slightest, shortest little moments of joy or vibrancy that force you to remember this isn’t some fantastical horror scale, these are human stories. It forces you to think a lot about the state of Russia, then and now, and how that past informs the Russian present.