After the end of WW2, Masha returns home to find out her son who has been cared for by her wartime friend, Iya whom she nicknames ‘Beanpole’, has died in a tragic accident. At first unfazed by the news, Masha gets a job at the same hospital as Iya and witnesses her and a doctor help euthanize a quadriplegic patient. She asks then blackmails her friend to conceive a baby for her with the doctor, believing it will heal her.
Even though the war has ended, the suffering continues throughout the story. Being partially set in a hospital is a reminder that no one is ever free of pain, through the patients, the doctors, Masha, and Iya’s past and present. Most people have known loss, whether it was during or after the war. We first understand Iya’s pain, not through the accidental death of her son, or by her PTSD which causes her to become immobile and freeze at random times, but it’s through the discovery at the start when we learn she was looking after the boy for Masha and Iya then lives in constant fear she will lose Masha forever. There is almost a love story between these two women but Masha’s desperation to have a child again blocks this from ever happening, even by the end, she can’t let the idea of having another child ever see that she has someone who loves her very much to deter her from her plans. The two-woman become each other’s comfort as well as barriers to ever completely healing again.
The colour palette of the film is very distinct, making sure red and green are bold, bright, and significant. Each of the characters is given a signature, green for Iya which contrasts so well with her pale blond hair and red for Masha. The colours signify these women’s personality, green for nurturing and a homely nature, red for fury and feisty nature, plus blood, which also comes up in quite a few scenes. These colours are in every frame, either together or apart, they dominate the film but never overpower the beautiful and heart-breaking acting from leads Viktoria Miroshnichenkom and Vasilisa Perelygina.
Director and co-writer Kantemir Balagov has created a story that may be about what happens after the war but there is no grit, grim or absolute misery which sometimes dominates this genre but there is pain, love, and delicate bond that hopefully will last.
Dir: Kantemir Balagov
Prd: Alexander Rodnyansky, Sergey Melkumov, Natalia Gorina
Scr: Kantemir Balagov, Alexander Terekhov
Cast: Viktoria Miroshnichenkom, Vasilisa Perelygina
DoP: Ksenia Sereda
Music: Yevgeny Galperin
Run time: 130 mins
Beanpole is available on Blu-ray now from Mubi