No too often do you find a single moment defining a film’s purpose. And when that happens, the filmmaker better make sure that he/she got the timing right, lest the message is lost on the audience. American director Julia Loktev’s second feature film “The Loneliest Planet” uses less than two seconds to justify its 108-minute run-time – blink, and you might just miss it. But she pulls it off very well through the carefully calibrated rhythm and nuance of her thrilling drama.
Alex (Gael García Bernal) and Nica (Hani Furstenberg) – engaged to be married, are trekking through the Caucasus mountains in Georgia – it is apparent that they’re very much in love, and are seasoned travellers to remote parts of the world, getting by with fewer creature comforts. Leading the couple is local mountain guide Dato (Bidzina Gujabidze – a mountain guide in real life too), an engaging personality who informs and entertains them along the way. This pretty much summarises the film, and whatever else we experience are a result of the director positioning her characters in relation to themselves and the landscape. Little is spoken amongst the three, but enough is conveyed, through long takes reminiscent of Angelopoulos’ The Travelling Players, and the keen – almost voyeuristic observation of the camera.
The slow pace of the film is disturbed momentarily, almost exactly halfway, through a swift, almost instinctive gesture from one of the characters that’ll contrast the mood and subtext of the two halves. If I have to be pedantic, there’s 3-4 minutes of excess film used immediately after this point – time Ms. Loktev uses to underscore the pivotal moment, possibly to help viewers unaccustomed to the film’s tempo and subtlety. Otherwise, this is a magnificent film with everything going for it – the screenplay, the performances, the cinematography, and certainly Ms. Loktev’s direction, which lends it authenticity by being almost subversively honest, while mentioning the unmentionable aspects of human nature and relationships. Highly Recommended Viewing..!
The Nudity: Hani Furstenberg
Hani Furstenberg appears nude on two occasions – first, while trying to keep warm in the bathroom while waiting for Bernal to fetch some hot water, and later when Bernal accompanies her outside the tent at night.