Beanpole

Beanpole ★★★★½

a slow-burn of a film, beanpole unspools all the fixings of quiet trauma. trauma that does not scream or thrash, but can be seen in croaking seizures and silent wishes for death. rather than the external devastations of war, balagov focuses on the internal sufferings of his characters, the irreparable emotional and psychological damage. the external wounds that they do have only serve to bolster their emotional pain. beanpole is plotted with stolid intention, a narrative of weariness and despair that feels suffocating.

lanky, snow-dusted iya was discharged from the frontlines of the war due to a strange form of post-concussion syndrome that causes her body sudden fits of paralysis in an uncanny sort of seizure; her voice is swallowed and her body is not her own anymore. compared to the towering, sheet-pale iya, the smaller masha seems to come from an entirely different reality. the hugeness of her personality and brightness of her burnt red hair splash across Iya’s sincere silences and gentle words. when masha arrives home from the front their codependency, undeniable intimacy, and emotional manipulation become the forefront of their attempts to recover.

our two central characters are both assigned colors: iya is green and masha is red. marked by the brightly knitted sweaters they wear, the fire of masha’s hair and the shades that surround them, their colors become an important facet of storytelling for balagov. at first, their colors are entirely separate; the chipped red paint of the apartment doors avoids the dripping, intoxicating greens painted on the apartment walls. one can trace the appearance of these colors and associate them with masha and iya’s attempt to find some sort of solid footing in the face of their sharp losses. as the narrative progresses and the intensity of their relationship spirals, their colors begin to merge and splatter across each other. iya’s sweaters are covered in flecks of red, masha puts on a green dress and violently spins until she can feel something.

beanpole and all of its cold intensity is a gorgeous exploration of post-war trauma and the mangled process of mending psychological wounds. its masterful production design and beautiful visuals make it even more affecting. i really love this!

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