Dir: Sergei Loznitsa | Cast: Vasilina Makovtseva |143min | Russian | Drama
A GENTLE CREATURE is based on a short story by Dostoevsky, narrated by a middle-aged pawnbroker whose wife kills herself. The story was first adapted by Robert Bresson in 1969 as his first film in colour but its subject matter differs from its title, drawing comparisons with several other recent fraught psychodramas such as A Happy End and The Square
Sergei Loznitsa imagines a dark descent into Hell in his follow up to My Joy and In the Fog. A GENTLE CREATURE is a film about the frustration of its central character: an earnest young woman whose husband has disappeared into the intractable Russian prison system. This parable about contemporary bureaucracy and human rights it is also a cynical takedown of our fellow man. The woman, played thoughtfully by Vasilina Makovtseva, has decent intentions that lead her into a never-ending nightmare, in a story that works on two levels: as a Kafkaesque psychological thriller and a brazen indictment of Russian society.
From her ramshakle cottage in the middle of nowhere, she sets off to personally deliver a parcel of food and clothing that has been returned to her by the prison authorities. The claustrophobic bus journey is a microcosm of Russia itself, beset with vile and unhelpful characters who bicker and bait each other, spouting vile opinions that provide rich insight into the country’s social politics.
When the woman arrives at her destination, a mesmerising dream sequence then ensues, glistening with shades of Kubrick s Eyes Wide Shut where a powerful elite of assembled guests at a dinner have the opportunity to expound on the greatness of Mother Russia, but this all culminates with a brutal rape scene as the woman is driven away in a van, hopes of visiting her husband dashed by the iron fist of the authorities who she thought were taking her to her husband. Often feeling like a contemporary version of Dante’s Inferno A GENTLE CREATURE has no happy end, reflecting on the mournful misery of mankind and the unkindness of strangers in a broken and demoralised world. MT
ON RELEASE FROM 16 APRIL 2018