Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Longest Planet

Do you love the beauty and majesty of nature? Would you like to be cured of that love? Then to you I prescribe 2011's The Loneliest Planet. Follow a bland, beautiful young woman accompanied by her bland boyfriend as they slowly make their way through the gorgeous Caucasus Mountains. They have a disagreement, stop speaking to each other a bit, then maybe resolve it. End of movie. This lasts for an hour and forty minutes. If the word "torture porn" didn't mean something else, I would be inclined to call this torture porn. It's sort of porn and it's sort of torturous.

The first shot of the film is Nica (Hani Furstenberg) jumping up and down naked to stay warm. She's soaking wet and it's a little while before her boyfriend, Alex (Gael Garcia Bernal), finally brings her some hot water. Bernal gets top billing but it's clearly Furstenberg that director Julia Loktev is really interested in. Really interested in.

After our full frontal meeting with Nica, we gradually learn . . . well, not much. Nica and Alex are engaged to be married and they're in Georgia looking for a guide to take them hiking in the mountains. There are a lot of shots of Nica's head showing her looking at something but not showing us what she's looking at--this has the effect of separating us from her point of view, making her the object rather than the subject. Occasionally the point of view seems to be Alex's but that's rather infrequent, too. The two seem to be specimens we're examining physically from a distance. Not really psychologically at all.

There's a shot of the back of Nica's head that lasts half a minute. Later we get another shot of the back of her head that seems to be Alex's point of view but as you can see in this shot the back of Alex's head is to the right of hers. This is no-one's point of view, we're just looking at the back of her head for no reason. Well, she has pretty hair. That's at least more reason than we're given in Conan the Barbarian for all that movie's stupid back of the head shots.

Pretty and tedious describes the footage of the couple and their guide, Dota (Bidzina Gujabidze), traversing the mountains. If it weren't for the nudity and swearing, this would make an excellent movie to put on store display televisions to show off hi-def.

They engage in small talk. Alex speaks Spanish and teaches Nica how to conjugate verbs. Dota teaches them how to do a trick knot. Finally a moment comes when we get some characterisation--they run into an old man who points a gun at Alex. Alex reflexively ducks behind Nica.

So Alex is kind of a putz.

The old man decides the two kids are okay and moves on. Instead of inane small talk, Alex, Nica, and Dota now wander through overlong takes saying nothing at all. It's vaguely hinted that Nica is more fond of Dota now because he's more of a protector--he talked the old man into leaving them alone. We learn Dota had a wife and kid and was in the military. Compared to Alex, about whom we've learned nothing, this is pretty great and I completely wanted Nica to go with Dota. But Loktev seems to feel we were invested in Alex for some reason.

There are so many shots in this movie that had me begging, "For gods' sakes just cut already. Stop rolling! Please!" I asked myself many times what I was watching. And my response to myself was, "Rock climbing, Sets. Rock climbing."

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