Awarded at the Cannes Festival, Kantemir Balagov’s film pictures Leningrad rising from the ruins as well as the lives of the city’s inhabitants. Dense with emotions, Beanpole packs quite a punch. The story of two friends who want to shake off the WWII trauma takes place in 1945 in Leningrad, which wakes up after years of siege. The film’s protagonists – Masha and Iya – try not only to forget what they experienced, but also to remember who they were before the siege, before their plans, emotions and feelings were ripped away from them. Svetlana Alexievich’s “The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II”, a shocking non-fiction account by the Belarusian Nobel laureate, provided the young director with direct inspiration and contributed to the film’s female perspective. The filmmaker does not focus on heroic deeds of war, but redefines heroism – as everyday small victories of life over death, hope over mourning, youth over dramatic experiences.

Beanpole brilliantly reconstructs the brutal reality and tense atmosphere of the post-war times, when euphoria mixes with mourning and people piece together their shattered biographies, while on the ruins of the past – against all odds – hope is slowly coming alive.

The film received the FIPRESCI Award in the Best Director category at the 2019 Cannes Festival.