The biggest wounds are never visible to the naked eye. They dwell deep inside the core. The trauma a person has gone through will always reflect in his personality and form a significant part of it. Their introspection, retrospection and perspectives are highly influenced by the pain they have gone through. When we think of the World War, we always get this image of a dauntless hero, leaving his family behind. We see his teary-eyed wife and a sobbing toddler who does not understand completely what is happening. Our films have made use of this image to symbolize the sacrifices made by our veterans. But we never get to know about the women who were on the war front.
Beanpole, the 2019 war drama talks about the life of female soldiers scuffling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which hardly anyone talks about.
Beanpole is set in 1945 in the city of St. Petersburg renamed as Leningrad. It talks about the aftermath of World War II. People are still regaining their balance. Before the scene opens we hear a creaking sound as if somebody is getting choked to death. It is coming from Iya, played by Vicktoria Miroshnichenko, as she stands palely staring into the void. She is getting her PTSD seizers and everyone around her seems to be quite accustomed to the situation as they continue to work. Iya is a nurse working in a hospital filled with war soldiers in an amputated mental and physical state. Sometimes Iya brings her son, Pashka, to the hospital as there is no one to look after him. The story starts to take its shape when Masha played by Vasilisa Perelygina, a friend of Sasha returns to Leninguard. We come to know that Pashka is actually Masha’s son. Iya and Masha had served together in the war. When Iya was invalided and sent home due to a concussion that was the main cause of her seizures’, Masha decided to send her son to Iya, so that he remains safe. The story is inspired by the book by Svetlana Alexievich- the uncommon face of war.
The War Ends but the Fight Goes On
The director feels that the only way war is being addressed in Russia is by glorifying it, by the creation of pseudo-patriotic characters. He refrains from catering to such anomalies in the screenplay.
Iya is sometimes also referred to as “Beanpole” due to her extremely tall and contorted demeanour. She shares a special bond with Masha. She says that she wants to master her. She knows how to mark her territory. A beautifully choreographed scene between Iya and Masha, when both meet for the first time after Masha’s return, sets the tone of the film. Iya is standing in a corner swathed under grief and guilt when Masha puts light on her face using a lighter. What follows is a romp of emotions, just like the twirl Masha gives her dress, in a guileless fervour, but then suddenly getting engulfed in the bitterness of reality. Iya doesn’t utter a word in the 5 minutes long twitchy and tense sequence but still speaks volumes. The pauses are long and the shots undisturbed. It makes you uncomfortable and itchy in your own skin. The emotions are allowed to seep in. There is an incessant desire on the part of Masha to mother a child, so much so that to further the endeavours she blackmails the administrator of the hospital Nikolay Ivanovich (Andrey Bykov), who has a father like affection towards Iya. Sometimes it so happens that a person’s life becomes a purgatory of traumatic thoughts and to escape the ordeal one counters the wretchedness by virtues and death by giving birth.
Masha goes to meet the family of her lust ridden but earnest fiancée Sasha. His mother having an opulent lifestyle and an en-caged opinion, belittles the role of Masha in the war front often levying shrewd remarks on her character. Masha replies by telling a distressing story about how she survived the war by sleeping with men. She calls out the nemesis as being notoriously slow and sometimes not being there at all.
Kantemir Balagov, in Beanpole, has given as an impartial account of the issues he thinks is often omitted and henceforth people have little or no knowledge about it. He says that he abstains from stereotyping, as there are a few good men among the worst lot too. Beanpole extends well beyond the battlefield; it extends well beyond the bullets and guns, well beyond the heroes and villains, the allies and axis. It encroaches on your personal space, such that your spirit quivers and leaves you misty-eyed and thinking.
Beanpole (Russian: Dylda) directed by Kantemir Balagov is a Russian historical drama film released in 2019. It was premiered in the “Un Certain Regard” section of the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. Beanpole won the FIPRESCI Prize for Best Film in the Un Certain Regard section. Kantemir Balagov was awarded “Un Certain Regard Best Director” award for the same.
Beanpole is streaming on MUBI.
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