seems obvious, but it bears repeating.
Roughing it through foreign lands can take a toll on a relationship,
especially when it is just the two of you.
Heedlessly, the engaged Nica and Alex do exactly that. Why yes, they are hipsters. Nonetheless, the hardscrabble folk living in
and around Georgia’s Caucasus mountain range seem to take a liking to them. Yet, one mistake will potentially ruin
everything in Julia Loktev’s The
Loneliest Planet (trailer
opens this Friday in New York at the IFC Center.
Hungary’s Lake Balaton, the Caucasus Mountains were once a prime Soviet
vacation spot, but Putin’s military incursion was not good for the tourist
trade. The Russians would best be advised
not to invade the beautiful but rugged mountain range, for reasons that will
become clear to the two young tourists. Initially
for Nica and Alex, it is like a giant playground. Every day they explore abandoned buildings
and vehicles, soaking up the scenery.
Each time they interact with an ominous looking local, it turns out
pleasantly at the end.
Dato as their guide, Nica and Alex begin their trek in earnest, but the
taciturn mountaineer does not dampen their giddy spirits. However, they will eventually learn he is a
man with some history. A fleeting moment
of crisis will also threaten to forever rupture their relationship.
Inti Briones captures all the rough sweeping grandeur of the Caucasus, which is
a fortunate thing, because for long stretches of time that is all viewers have
to work with. Structurally, Planet consists of a laborious set-up,
about two seconds of pay-off, and an extended denouement. Why it has received such enthusiastic
international accolades is a bit mystifying.
Though certainly not terrible, it is quite a bit like scores of other
slightly pretentious festival films that are too cool for dialogue.
the small cast often says a great deal with a look or a subtle bit of body
language, particularly Hani Furstenberg’s Nica.
However, there is a difference between understatement and not saying
anything. Partly based on former
Uzbekistani Peace Corps volunteer and recovering videogame addict Tom Bissell’s
short story “Expensive Trips Nowhere,” Loneliest
probably would have packed a more powerful punch as a short film.
relocated to New York from Israel, the eerily expressive Furstenberg is likely
to be in high demand amongst the mumblecore set, based on her work in Planet.
Gael García Bernal is also quite well cast as Alex, but for rather
unflattering reasons. The scraggly Brooklyn-style
beard essentially says all we need to know about him. However, it is the work of nonprofessional
actor Bidzina Gujabidze (who reluctantly postponed a Himalayan expedition to
appear in Planet) who really makes a
lasting impact as the mysterious Dato.
watching Planet many viewers will
feel like they hiked the Caucasus range themselves. Loktev strikingly captures the overwhelming
atmosphere of desolation but her sense of pacing is decidedly slack. Not recommended beyond a limited self-selecting
circle of film snobs, The Loneliest
Planet opens this Friday (10/26) at the IFC Center.
Labels: Julia Loktev