Friday, October 23, 2020

Beanpole: a WWII movie - not for prudes or purists


Hello commies! 

We have two very spooky events coming up: Halloween and the Election. Hope you are holding up and not reading too much fake news. I have an amazing iconoclastic film to recommend. Most WWII movies that reach American audiences are about the Western front. I am glad to see The Beanpole with subtitles. It highlights the Russian/Soviet experience. We need more of those movies made available to international audiences. 


1945, Leningrad. World War II has devastated the city, demolishing its buildings and leaving its citizens in tatters, physically and mentally. Two young women, Iya and Masha, search for meaning and hope in the struggle to rebuild their lives amongst the ruins.

My thoughts:

I am fortunate enough to speak Russian, so I read some reviews of this film on various Russian sites. I noticed, there was a group of viewers who considered it blasphemous. I read comments like, "My great grandfather, who fought in the Patriotic War, is flipping in his grave!" Indeed, the movie depicts certain episodes from post-war Leningrad life that does not jive with the spirit of victory and patriotism. Indeed, patriotism comes with a certain element of prudishness: "Not in OUR country." It's a bitter pill of swallow. Nobody wants to think of military doctors conducting assisted suicide. It's not very Soviet, is it? Just as it's not very Soviet for two women to be in a sexual relationship. Not in THAT country, for which their great grandfathers had fought. 

Some reviewers pointed out that the city does not look very much like 1945 Leningrad. The whole air is anachronistic. And I agree, the film breaks every dogma of portraying that era. The way people talk, the way they move - it's very different from what you are used to seeing in WWII movies from the 1960-1980s era. It's like you are in a parallel dimension. I assume, it's not because the director did not know any better. It's not like he did not do his homework. The casting choices and some of the directorial moves were deliberate. 

One reviewer actually pointed out that the two female characters borrow each other's clothes. One favors red, and the other favors green, and sometimes they swap cardigans, which symbolizes a sort of symbiosis established between them. They have so much pain and anger tying them together, they cannot separate and move on with their lives. And they don't give a damn what happens around them, if it's Leningrad or Berlin. They are stuck in their own personal hell. 

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