Ukrainian director Sergey Loznitsa is known for dejected dramas marked by a strong emotional aptitude and sharp sociopolitical commentary. In addition to valid fictional works such as My Joy and In The Fog, he dedicates a significant part of his career to documentaries, a category that includes The Event and Maidan as highlights.
His most recent work, A Gentle Creature, was aptly shot in Latvia and Lithuania and its story based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s short story of the same name. It stars Vasilina Makovtseva, the perfect figure to personify this lonely Russian woman whose incarcerated husband usually receives from her a monthly package of clothes, canned food, condensed milk, and other essential goods. Her package is either refused by the prison or returned by the post office, which raises suspicion about his whereabouts and health condition. He can even be dead, and this gentle, if restless, creature can’t live with that painful uncertainty. Hence, courageous and determined, she sets off to the prison for answers.
“…raises suspicion about her husband’s whereabouts and health condition…”
An uncomfortable and exhausting trip to a remote region of the country lined with oppressive atmospheres and gloomy characters, who seem to enjoy telling her morbid stories. To get to see her husband, she is subjected to several humiliations – police corruption and abuse of power. She is systematically drawn to unfriendly places where depression, debauchery, paranoia, and mistrust become nerve-wracking. Not to mention the endless bureaucracy and constant intimidation associated to the futile, totalitarian Russian authorities. This woman knows she cannot trust anyone but has no other option than accept the help of strangers. After all, she needs her piece of mind. Once at the prison, she is told to contact the ‘proper authorities’, a vague statement that gets her as much confused as frustrated.
Loznitsa essayed a long, dense, and evil governmental machination, which culminates in unexpected places replete with familiar faces. The disturbing ending has the crepuscular cinematography by Oleg Mutu reinforcing the darkness of a tale whose occasional sarcastic humor won’t be enough to cheer you up. A Gentle Creature is an arduous watch indeed and will leave you a certain nausea that takes a while to go away. However, its mysterious ways, bolstered with a bit of psychedelic surrealism, makes it notable.
A Gentle Creature (2018) Directed by Sergey Loznitsa. Written by Sergey Loznitsa. Starring Vasilina Makovtseva, Valeriu Andriutã, Liya Akhedzhakova, Sergey Russkin.
7 out of 10 stars