Dir: Sergei Loznitsa | Cast: Vasilina Makovtseva |143min | Russian | Drama
A Gentle Creature is 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 colour film. This version by Sergei Loznitsa imagines a dark descent into Hell in another film with an ironic title in the Cannes competition line-up fraught with disquieting psychodramas. Like Happy End and Good Time A GENTLE CREATURE is a film about the bitter frustration of its central character: an earnest young woman seeking her husband who has disappeared into an intractable Russian prison system.
A 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 nightmare that never ends in a film 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 fraught with vile and unhelpful characters who bicker and bait each other spouting vile opinions that provide rich insight into Russian society.
A mesmerising dream sequence that glistens with shades of Kubrick s Eyes Wide Shut offers these characters opportunity to expound on the greatness of Mother Russia but this culminates with a brutal rape scene as the woman is driven away in a van, in the mistaken hope of visiting her husband. Loznita contemporary Dante’s Inferno has no happy end, reflecting on the mournful misery of mankind and the unkindness of strangers in a broken world. MT
CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | 17-28 MAY 2017 | IN COMPETITION