Beanpole (Dylda) was Russia’s entry for Best Foreign Film in this year’s Academy Awards and it is a tour de force.
Having said that, it is also an unrelentingly bleak depiction of the ruination of war and the challenges faced by two young women survivors trying to pick up the pieces in post-war Leningrad.
Iya, nicknamed Beanpole for her height and slender frame, returned early from the war, suffering from concussion-induced PTSD and catatonic bouts. She is now a nurse in a hospital for wounded soldiers. Her friend Masha returns from the front suffering from her own form of PTSD. She moves in with Iya, their relationship based on their mutual need to emerge from their grief, in a city beset with poverty and despair. In a desperate desire to find connection, Masha, unable to bear a child, decides that Iya should have a child for them, which threatens to destroy their friendship.
There are many stories of men returning from war damaged, but Beanpole, inspired by “The Unwomanly Face of War” by Nobel-winning author Svetlana Alexievich, focuses on the equally devastating scarring on women. Sometimes the after-effects of war can be more brutal than the war itself. There is one particularly difficult scene to watch.
On a slightly happier note, our first documentary of the fall season is the NFB film, The Whale and the Raven, which tells of the tireless efforts of the Gitga’at First Nation and researchers to protect whales in Hartley Bay, near Kitimat. They speak out against an LNG export plant and the looming dangers to the whales of more tanker traffic and disruptive noise.
Subtitled, Beanpole plays at 4 and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 3, and The Whale and the Raven plays at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 7, both at the Salmar Classic. Please remember your mask.