A deeply wraught melodrama about post war love and reclamation.
Director: Kantemir Balagov (Closeness)
Screenplay: Balagov, Aleksandr Terekhov (Mathilde)
Cast: Viktoria Miroshnicenko, Vasilisa Perelygina. Andrey Bykov
Runtime: 2h 10m
By: John DeSando
You could expect a 1945 Leningrad setting to be joyful after the Russian victory over Nazis, but writer/director Kantemir has caught the downside in Beanpole. It’s a deeply moving, complicated story about two former soldiers who tackle the melancholy and desperation of victors with no spoils---just ruined buildings and crushed hopes.
This melancholy drama centers on two women: Iva (Viktoria Miroshnicenk) and Masha (Vasilisa Perelygina), who attempt to bring meaning to their lives after the devastation. Mostly it’s about Masha’s attempt to have a life within her, mainly a baby. Her first baby died at the hands of Iva, who now owes Masha a baby.
Through a series of lengthy scenes and shots (sometimes they are too long), the audience is drawn into the emotional needs of the protagonists set against the needs of the other Leningrad citizens to gain happiness and hope after a ravaging war. The scenes between Iva and Masha are lovingly and deeply felt as Masha navigates getting a replacement baby and Iva resists the machinations to do so.
Given the wide scope of WWII, Beanpole is a small-scale drama, whose intensity comes from the characters rather than the setting. Love is the operative word, married to hope to make a satisfying character study in a drawn-out drama of human longing, regardless of the time period.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JohnDeSando62@gmail.com.