Krotkaya (A Gentle Creature)Cannes Film Festival 2017
A Gentle Creature may be the most stereotypically Russian film at this year’s festival, which is both a blessing and a curse. The audience expects an air of heavy gloom from Sergei Loznitsa’s latest, which borrows its title from a Dostoyevsky short story – so it’s a great surprise when humour raises its head, more than once. On the other hand, it’s a relentlessly grim fable about corrupt authority, one that runs for over two hours, so any kind of levity is going to be short lived.
Vasilina Makovtseva plays an unnamed woman who seldom talks, let alone smiles. She’s got a husband in prison – “for nothing”, she says, though others say murder – and she’s decided that she’ll visit him with a box of supplies. The problem is that once she gets there, she’s confronted by a comically hostile bureaucratic system, an army of pencil-pushers who won’t budge an inch. Not only do they refuse her box of supplies, but they refuse to say whether her husband is even in prison or not. So she turns to the locals, the police, even the local mafia for help – and they all either exploit her or express resignation about the omnipresence of corruption.
Opening scenes of bright sunshine and bold colour supply hope that this won’t be another stone-faced, cold concrete tale of misery, where everyone is awful and death comes as a blessed release. But while there’s dialogue that may (or may not) be satirical of morbid Russianness, the constant talking and suffering and talking about suffering becomes numbing after a while, compounded by a wet-blanket protagonist who’s so naïve she almost deserves the fate that befalls her. Perhaps that’s the point – this woman is someone who’s so pure that she simply isn’t made for this world? Still, it’s hard to feel sorry for a character with no agency or personality, who embraces victimhood so abjectly. The movie takes a curious turn towards the surreal at the end, but this is no Brazil – that, at least, tried to get on our good side before supplying its vicious moral spanking.
Krotkaya (A Gentle Creature) does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for Krotkaya (A Gentle Creature) here: