A Gentle Creature Screen 11 articles

A Gentle Creature


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  • This inevitably makes for dreary and punishing cinema, a film that will have you leaving the auditorium with head slung low. Makovtseva is low-key excellent in the lead, somehow remaining completely mysterious and blank at a character, but doing just enough so that you pine for her to survive the next violent encounter. Yet the film is something of a bust, and its conceited dedication to despair presents a world which feels wholly disconnected from reality.

  • This probably all sounds like a grueling ordeal, and indeed it's not what one might call a fun watch. But it's also obviously not just horror for horror's sake. Loznitsa has always been a director fascinated by faces, the sheer variety of human expressions and physiognomies, so even if the film seems underscored by a steady drum beat of fury at the cruelty people can inflict on one another, there's also a keening air of sorrowful, empathic humanism, like the sound of distant violin.

  • Were it not for the redundant dream sequence that takes up A Gentle Creature’s final half-hour and completely derails the film, Loznitsa may well have pulled off a masterpiece — if a supremely unpleasant one at that.

  • Deftly weaving between politically ambitious documentary projects and brooding, chunky dramas exploring the malignant side of Russian society, Ukraianian director Sergei Loznitsa follows Austerlitz, last year’s documentary on concentration camp tourism, with the fictional A Gentle Creature, an impressively morose, dense, and totalizing immersion into the dehumanizing absurdity of the Russian prison system.

  • It depicts the Russian experience as an intersection between Dostoevsky and Kafka, although that doesn’t quite begin to capture its extremity—or suggest the redeeming grain of hope that, despite everything, its heroine embodies. Loznitsa’s film is the one competition entry in Cannes this year that I absolutely want to see again—and not just for the moments that sleep made me miss.

  • Unequivocally one of the toughest, darkest and longest movies playing in competition... It's about as strange, perplexing and foreign an experience as any I’ve had at the Festival de Cannes, and the reasons that will limit its commercial viability are the very reasons that you should seek it out, if and when it arrives in your local art-house theater.

  • It's at once Losnitza’s most furiously pitched and painstakingly constructed work to date, moving ahead with an appropriately methodical rigor even as it reaches heights of hallucinogenic madness in its final stretch. It’s a sobering and troubling vision, rendered in vivid strokes by a consummate thinker and master craftsman.

  • Among the highlights of the festival, Russian films featured prominently. Indeed, on the basis of the evidence at Cannes, if there is any nation that is still capable of producing resolutely cinematic works, it is the land that, one hundred years ago, was consumed in a revolutionary storm the effects of which we can still feel today.

  • Admittedly, one film that kept my eyes wide open might well fall into the category of cruel and unusual experiments. But Sergei Loznitsa gives his latest work, A Gentle Creature, a rude (in every sense) chaotic energy and a lunatic desperation that’s grimly comic when not stomach-churning.

  • It's more of a destabilizing shock to the system than a call to arms, a confrontation with a broken state rather than a blueprint to rebuild it. It confirms Loznitsa as a master craftsman of the impeccably designed and crafted hellscape, politically charged and all-consuming. Although he takes a bombastic route to a horrific finale, it’s often the muted, wordless scenes that linger the most in the mind.

  • What really lingers is Losnitza's skill as choreographer: Many of his scenes consist of long single takes starting from a seemingly innocuous in-point and slowly jostling both audience and heroine into the next phase of this punishing environment but never stopping the film's flow to scream “bravura set piece.” The effect is enveloping, naturalistic, yet claustrophobic.

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