A Gentle Creature (2018)


Directed by Sergey Loznitsa
Country: Russia / Lithuania / other

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 great 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 Dostoievsky’s short story of the same name. It stars Vasilina Makovtseva, the perfect figure to personify this lonely Russian woman whose incarcerated husband suddenly is impeded to receive her monthly package containing clothes, canned food, condensed milk, and other essential goods. The package had never been refused by the prison or returned by the post office before, which rises 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 unhesitating, she sets off to the prison where he was sent to after being sentenced for an apparently shady murder case.

An uncomfortable and exhausting trip to a remote region of the country impregnated 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 are systematic, and is 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 nobody, but she has no other option than accept the help of strangers. After all, she needs her piece of mind, which can only achieve when she finds out where her husband is. 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.