PRINT February 2020



Kantemir Balagov, Beanpole, 2019, 2K video, color, sound, 137 minutes. Iya (Viktoria Miroshnichenko).

KANTEMIR BALAGOV’S BEANPOLE, set in devastated Leningrad just after the end of World War II, commences with an auditory enigma. Under the credits, an odd, intermittent sound emerges, somewhere between an asthmatic rasp and a death rattle, accompanied by a piercing overtone. The film’s first image finally reveals the source: a close-up of a woman’s pallid face, her eyes wide and fixed on nothing, her throat gently spasming as she emits strangulated gasps. She is Iya (Viktoria Miroshnichenko), nicknamed Beanpole, a nurse in a military hospital who, having been invalided from the front lines with a concussion, suffers from postwar trauma, manifested in spells of extreme dissociation that leave her temporarily catatonic. That tinnitus-like pitch is meant to replicate what Iya hears during one of her paralytic fugues.

The director notes that the Russian term for “beanpole,” dylda, does

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