A startling vision of contemporary Russia, steeped in literary tradition, but supremely cinematic in realisation, Ukrainian filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa’s A Gentle Creature is the glowering dark star on this year’s programme.
“Inspired by (though not adapted from) the Dostoevsky short story of the same title, A Gentle Creature follows a stoic Russian woman (played with riveting impassivity by Vasilina Makovtseva) trying to get a care package to her convict husband after it is inexplicably returned to her. Rebuffed at her local post office, she decides to travel to the prison and deliver the parcel herself – a journey that will lead her through a Kafka-esque bureaucratic nightmare and into the very heart of Putin’s Russia, a place where violent absurdity and everyday inhumanity reign.
Loznitsa, making his third appearance in the Cannes competition (after My Joy and In the Fog), uses richly textured visuals and sustained long shots to usher us alongside this ‘gentle creature’ down the rabbit-hole. That allusion comes from the story itself, whose surreal climax plays like something out of Alice in Wonderland, at least until – well, I’ll leave that horror for you to discover. A Gentle Creature is 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.”— Justin Chang, LA Times
“A devilishly symphonic piece of art that transcends cinema and politics to nestle itself in the back of your mind forever.”— Nikola Grozdanovic, The Playlist