Monday, 25 July 2022

Dylda (Beanpole) 2019

Beanpole (original title Dylda) is the story of two friends struggling through the aftermath of post-WWII in Leningrad (St Petersburg), returning from the front-line and now working in a hospital as nurses to help recovering soldiers. It's a work by the relatively inexperienced and young 
Kantemir Balagov from southern Russia.

One of the two girls is very tall, leading to the title of the film and has been previously invalided out of the army due to trauma suffered. She now suffers from some kind of periodic 'blackouts' where she freezes. Those around her are clearly used to coping with this difficulty. There's one tragic scene where this problem reveals itself with a dreadful outcome. Her name is Iya and her role is amazingly portrayed by little-known actor Viktoria Miroshnichenko.

Her friend is called Masha and she's more recently returned from the front-line, desperate to see her son, who she had to leave behind. She's played with equal talent by the even less-known Vasilisa Perelygina. Masha is much more world-wise than Iya and does what she can to get pregnant again - and when she can't, tries to talk Iya into be a surrogate mother for her to have another child.

In amongst all this, we see the terrible poverty and destruction around the characters as soldiers in their care struggle for life - and in some cases cry out for the doctors and nurses to put them out of their misery. This brings us to another interweaving thread of the story and the main doctor, Nikolay, who introduces the whole euthanasia issue, rights and wrongs, moral groundwork etc. He supports the main players very well, too, portrayed by another unknown actor, Andrey Bykov.

The last main character is a young lad who Misha tries to hook up with as a possible husband and/or father of the child she so wants. He's from a relatively rich family and there's one scene where he takes her back to the family home for dinner. The scene reflects many of the differences in attitudes between the 'haves' and 'have-nots'. Those with power and position and those scrabbling around in the gutter to survive. The young chap is called Sasha and is played by Igor Shirokov with some conviction, spoilt brat in some scenes, playboy around town in some and devoted potential partner in others.

There's a colourful theme running through the film. Lots of green. Rich greens. And reds. Apparently the director is quoted as saying that the reds are about the blood of wounds, reflecting the wounded lives and devastated society, damaged by the harrowing situation while the greens are about hope for the future and being alive. It could well have been shot in black and white, given the subject matter, but colour was used to portray a different message of contrast - the terrible past/present and future growth. You can see where these colours are used in various scenes to reflect that and it works well.

The film is a harrowing study of these people, destroyed by what has gone before and giving us an insight into how they have to live now. It focuses mainly on the intense but exploitative friendship between the two girls but also reaches out to a wider group of people, social issues and challenges faced by all the characters. It's amazingly well acted (especially by the two leads), beautifully shot by the more experienced cinematographer Ksenia Sereda (Chernobyl: Abyss) and wonderfully directed. Clearly Bagagov has a rich career ahead of him.

I was able to see this on the Mubi channel but I note that it can also be streamed on some other services. Very highly recommended and worth a watch.

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