Skip to main content
A Magazine for

Beanpole: 'Remarkably assured' Cannes winner

812 1574852259
Beanpole is a film about the lasting, traumatic brutality of war in which not a single shot is fired and the most shocking scenes are quiet, intimate moments with a dreamlike sense of tragic inevitability.

But while the script pulls no punches, director Kantemir Balagov manages to maintain a delicate optimism, as he follows his characters' desperate attempts to bring their broken minds and bodies back to some sense of normality.

Iya (Viktoria Miroshnichenko) is the eponymous Beanpole, a nurse in post-war Leningrad whose anxious passivity is matched by an almost translucent pallor. She often fades even further as she's overcome by catatonic fits, a lingering effect of the concussion that saw her discharged from the front lines. She does her best to look after six-year-old Pashka (Timofey Glazkov), but it isn't until former comrade Masha (Vasilisa Perelygina) arrives that we find out the true nature of their relationship.

We might expect the arrival of confident, affectionate Masha to be a comfort for Iya, but she comes with her own trauma and is perhaps even more vulnerable than her fragile friend. A glimpse of a large abdominal scar while Masha bathes foreshadows the third act revelation of her harrowing story. The two settle into a precarious co-dependence that veers between domineering manipulation and tender romance.

The microcosmic story takes place in the aftermath of one of the biggest, most destructive battles of WW2, but it's built from tightly-framed shots of claustrophobic domesticity, not sweeping panoramas of smouldering rubble. We see the human cost of war close-up in kitchens, bedrooms and laundry rooms, with only a crack in the wall or a dusty window hinting at the chaos outside.

Beanpole is a remarkably assured sophomore effort for Balagov and a deserved winner of Cannes 2019's Un Certain Regard prize.

More Film

Hive: Poignant and quietly inspirational

Looking at patriarchy and social norms in Kosovo in the wake of war, the meditative pacing and sensitive direction of Blerta Basholli’s Hive allow it to be inspirational without moralising.

La Mif:

Writer-director Fred Baillif draws on his experience of working in social care to tell the story of seven girls living in a residential…

Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy

2021 was Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s year. After making one of the best films of the last decade in Happy Hour (2015), a five-hour drama of…

Jackass Forever

After a decade’s absence, this circus of spectacle exceeds expectations with an incredible amount of heart and genuine showmanship.

More Film