The Loneliest Planet

The Loneliest Planet

Directed by: Julia Loktev
113 minutes

New England Premiere

In the summer before their wedding, engaged couple Nica (Hani Furstenberg) and Alex (Gael García Bernal) are backpacking through the Caucasus Mountains in Georgia with a local guide, Dato (Bidzina Gujabidze). The three of them encounter an environment that is serene and awesomely beautiful, but also isolated and challenging. To highlight this aspect, we intermittently see them in extreme long shots, appearing as three tiny specks within a vast, endless landscape. Along the way, Nica and Alex participate in small talk, conjugate Spanish verbs, and sing songs in order to pass the time. Although his English is limited, Dato eventually joins them and opens up about his own past. However, when one of them engages in a sudden, ill-advised act midway through, it instantly and radically alters the trio’s dynamic and casts a dark cloud over the rest of the trip.

As with her previous feature DAY NIGHT DAY NIGHT (IFFBoston 2007), director Julia Loktev depicts a scenario (adapted from Tom Bissell’s short story) in which not everything is as it initially seems. Even the rhythmic, pounding noise in the opening scene reveals itself as something most viewers would not expect. An abundance of static shots not only create painterly tableaus, but also study the ever-shifting spatial relationships among the three characters. Heightened sounds such as crunching footsteps through tall, leafy vegetation or the unpredictable crackle of a campfire add texture and underscore how much the journey itself resonates more than any final destination.

—Chris Kriofske