Beanpole ★★★

Green certainly isn't the warmest colour, but it strikingly counterpoints the lifeless, autumnal loom in which this film is set. No portraits are painted within the film, but nearly every frame, flickering firelight off of faces, which are often as faded as the patterned tiles and wallpaper behind them, resembles one. There are no peaches available in Leningrad, but the two women at the centre of this film engage in similair games, keeping their own names but melding and switching identities and purposes with the other in a seductive, sorrowful way.

The film takes a while to get there though, forcing us to sit through a series of tragic sufferings before it begins its real, unique story. Certainly the core tragedy is important, and heartbreakingly banal besides, but I wonder how much we needed all of this terribleness at the opening and if it doesn't close you off to the film somewhat. My defence mechanisms were triggered.

Once the stage is set though, the pairing established and the hospital left behind, once the film becomes less of a larger post-war wallowing and more of a specific psychological battle it becomes something much more beautiful and compelling. The supper table interview is among the years best scenes for me, simply by virtue of the way it allows the actress to repress more emotions than most know how to evoke.

Fitting, because at its best moments this is an unknowable film, about two women it is impossible to fully understand, whose choices are shocking, violent and strangely more lovely than sad (How would you describe the shots of spinning in the dress, which are both beautiful and terrifying, innocent and traumatised?) But at its worst, which is where it opens, this film is a blunt force trauma, and for as long as it is I needed more, too much time having been lost to the wrong scenes.

P.S. The technical acheivment of this film, building whole city blocks of period appropriate set is cool and all, but for me it was the knitwear that wowed. I wanted every single sweater the two leads wore.

Luke liked this review