Beanpole (Kantemir Balagov, 2019, Russia)

Beanpole is the latest film by Russian director Kantemir Balagov. The film follows his 2017 feature Closeness and tells the story of two women's relationships at the end of the Second World War. One is named Iya - also known as "Beanpole" due to her height. Iya works as a nurse in a Leningrad hospital under the oversight of Dr. Nikolay Ivanovich. Iya's physicality is a major component of the film - not only is she extremely tall in comparison to most of the women and men around her, but she has striking white hair that makes her stand out. Iya suffers from seizures due to an injury in the war, and the film begins with her accidentally suffocating to death the son of Masha (the other woman).

Thus the film quickly subverts the expectation that Pashka, the boy, will become a major part of the film. Instead, the film traces the relationship between Iya and Masha throughout the film. In what is essentially a film about trauma, Balagov uses several interesting techniques to make what might have been a pedestrian historical drama stand out. Most notable is the outstanding use of color. Most notable are the contrasts between green and red which permeate the film, whether it is Iya's green clothing or Masha's recurrent red nosebleeds. While the film might overstay its welcome a bit (the pace is glacial), the film is not boring and the emotional resonance of the connection between the two women, and their emotional manipulation of one another and the men around them (who are also severely damaged), keeps the story going. There are some parallels between this film and Portrait of a Lady on Fire, another film that came out in 2019 about an intense relationship between two women, one of whom wears a green dress.



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