Cannes Film Festival: Beanpole (2019)

Beanpole by Kantemir Balagov is the bleak, devastating aftermath of a Leningrad destroyed by war.

Walking Wounded

by Alexa Dalby


CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Beanpole charts the intense relationship of two women in a devastated Leningrad after the end of the Second World War, who are, like so many other Russians, emotionally damaged by their experiences. Iya (Viktoria Mironshnichenko), nicknamed Beanpole, so tall and blonde that she almost looks like an albino, works in the hospital for wounded ex-soldiers, some of them so mutilated and disabled that they would rather die. They are the physically damaged victims of the war but others in the film are emotionally damaged.

Iya is still traumatised by her experiences as a soldier. She is joined in her one room in a house shared by numerous families by her friend Masha (Vasilisa Perelygina), still wearing army uniform, demobilised from the Front, who has during the course of the war become amoral and manipulative.

The intensity of the two women’s symbiotic relationship amid the ruins of their country and their lives is difficult to watch as it focuses on the fate of the child of one of them, and the manipulation to achieve another child that’s part of the desire for healing. Beanpole constantly surprises, scenes are cut sooner than you expect so you fill in the ends, it reverses what you had accepted as the truth, and absorbs you into an almost unbearable vicious circle of pain that all the characters, major and minor have to live with.

Beanpole premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, where it won the FIPRESCI Prize, Un Certain Regard Best Director and the Queer Palm.

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