“The Loneliest Planet”, or “LOUD VIOLINS… silence” by Caitlin McGrane

Posted on March 29, 2013

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I read a very brief synopsis for The Loneliest Planet about a week before I saw it. I read stuff about a couple travelling, about ‘something’ happening to them, that this event changes them… and that Gael Garcia Bernal was in it. That last fact was what did it for me. I fell madly in love with him when I saw The Motorcycle Diaries. Also now that the awards season is finally over, I can get down to seeing some more independent films. So off I went.

The pretty people in the The Loneliest Planet.

The pretty people in the The Loneliest Planet.

The film opens with the woman in this young couple, Nica (Hani Furstenberg), jumping up and down, naked and covered in soap. Her delightful boyfriend, Alex (Gael), eventually rushes in to douse her in water, while she gasps with gratitude.

The first 30 or so minutes of the film focuses on them and the way they interact with each other. They get on very well, don’t often communicate verbally, and are very comfortable being physical with each other (not always like that, but a bit like that). They hire a local guide, Dato (Bidzina Gujabidze), to take them on a hike through the mountains of this mysterious place.

As I mentioned two weeks ago I used to study Russian so I sighed an internal “ahhhhh” when it is revealed they are in Georgia, south of the Russian Urals and east of the Black Sea. To set the political scene: Georgia’s relationship with Russia is still fraught; the country is classified as “mostly free”; and EU membership is still considered a long way off.

Little dialogue, lotsa scenery.

As Alex, Nica and Dato travel through the breathtaking countryside tension hangs ominously in the air. More than once Dato, his cigarette still dangling between his lips, stops his companions, looks portentously around, and then suddenly continues walking. The apprehensive atmosphere is heightened by the score, which oscillates between very loud, very intense violin music and complete silence.

This film should have been so much better than it was. The one issue that kept coming back to me was that I didn’t care about these characters. Not one jot. I didn’t know them and I didn’t feel invested in their lives at all. In fact, I kept wishing the thing would happen so I could feel something.

Alas, this film has all the right elements but fails to hang together. What this film needed was some heart. It felt almost self-indulgent for the filmmakers to shoot a film in Georgia and almost (very almost) ignore the social and political turmoil. The 2008 war with Russia was only five years ago! (Yes it lasted 5 days, but let’s not pretend this is the only time these two countries have come to blows).

It was also far too long. For a film like this, with little in the way of dialogue and lots of scenery, 90 minutes is sufficient. No doubt the director (Julia Loktev) has a great film in her somewhere, but this isn’t it. There was nothing in it so that was actually offensive. It doesn’t need a full-blown rant, but it was incredibly dull in places. So dull in fact that someone sitting in front of me actually got up and stormed out the second the credits started rolling.

P.S. A number of very inconsiderate people talked throughout this film. Readers, you will be pleased to know that I did not set them on fire, despite how much I wanted to. Don’t be that guy, the cinema talker. In the cinema, you are essentially looking at artwork, so respect it. And refer to THE CODE:

THE CODE

Caitlin McGrane is You’re Dripping Egg’s resident film critic. You can read her column, Here. Hare. Here., every Friday. 

For sure The Loneliest Planet? Or the most bored planet? You decide. To the comments!

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