The Loneliest Planet (2011) by Julia Loktev is an incredibly harrowing tale of love, sadness, and an unfortunate circumstance. Immediately the film sets the tone with sound off screen, explaining that this will not be a movie that will take your hand to walk you through it. This film is more interested in having its audience tag along while hopefully noticing the subtleties of the narrative. The audience may feel displaced or uneasy due to the abrupt cuts with sound and picture transitioning at the same time, as this is no Hollywood Blockbuster. That being said, there is far more to enjoy if the viewer pays attention.
What begins as a seemingly mindless traipse through a beautiful landscape, set in the Caucus Mountains, quickly turns into an immensely compelling tale about the power of accidental betrayal and inherent weakness. Gael Garcia Bernal (Alex) is brimming with a deep understanding of the relationship between internal exposition and the physicality of such a concept. He is able to engross us within his emotion without any clumsy narrative getting in the way. Hani Furstenberg’s portrayal of Nica is a great compliment to his skill and style and is very real, appealing to this viewer’s sentimentality. She is also able to expose the internal conflict throughout the film. What could be a dismissible subtle change holds a much grander weight through her performance.
Although, the performances are wonderful, the true meat and substance in this film comes from the visually stimulating elements. Right away the color palette cannot go unnoticed and it plays a heavy role in the unfolding of the story. What is at first vibrant and alluring, changes into a washed out dull grayness. Inti Briones is a brilliant master craftsman as his cinematography is the true reason this film stands out amongst so many others. His skill is easily the justification for most viewer’s opinions. They will inevitably walk away feeling amazed at the brilliant landscapes and beautiful framing from throughout the entire two hour experience. The former Soviet Republic of Georgia is a Director of Photography’s dream playground, and one can only imagine the excitement and satisfaction Briones was able to experience during the filming on this gorgeous movie.
However, most moviegoers are going to leave this film feeling quite upset… depressed even. Do not expect for the ending to tie up all the loose ends here as it ends quite abruptly after the saddest most gut wrenching sequences in The Loneliest Planet. The finale ends so abruptly that it is quite unsettling. It will leave you feeling empty, just as it starts to have the semblance of what we have come to expect in America from a production. It seems as though it ends in what feels like the middle of the second act. That feeling definitely isn’t something I could shake off even an hour or so after finishing the film, but I suppose that means that the film is ultimately successful for me.