Beanpole ★★★★

The opening shot of Beanpole will tell you already that it is not going to be a happy film. In the aftermath of World War II, two young women (Iya and Masha) search for meaning after the devastating impact that the war has made on them, both physically and mentally. The women seem hardly able to express themselves anymore, often mumbling instead of talking. And when they show expression, the energy explodes and the situation is taken to an extreme. These unbalanced emotions dance around the setting of a hospital, as Iya and Masha are nurses.

Wounded soldiers lay in the hospital, either awaiting a restart for their lives or waiting till the time of death arrives. Beanpole does not dramatize these soldiers, but merely observes them, just as the nurses observe their patients. It is Iya and Masha at the centre of our attention, searching for meaning amid all the despair. Actually, there was meaning for the two women in the opening part of the film. They raised a young boy, the son of Masha; but in one of the most horrifying scenes of the year, the son passes away. The remainder of Beanpole follows the women as they try to make up for this horrible loss. Whether it is sensible in any way or not, they set out to conceive a new child. Far from being a film about hope, Beanpole is a film about finding meaning in our lives. People do anything to not feel useless in their lives, to not leave this earth without having contributed in some way or another. I can only imagine how this feeling must have been after the horrifying events of a World War; how could one at all start a normal life again? and how could one at all have the feeling that his life is worth something after such atrocious events?

Ps. On a more positive note, the lighting and production design in Beanpole is gorgeous. How is it that Russians always know how to perfectly dress a set?..

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