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Toronto International Film Festival 2011: 'The Loneliest Planet'

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Monday, Sep 12, 2011
This archetypal art house film follows two mostly non-verbal tourists as they hike through the Caucuses under mostly overcast skies.

THE LONELIEST PLANET
Director: Julia Loktev
Cast: Gael García Bernal, Hani Furstenberg, Bidzina Gujabidze
Country: USA / Germany


The kind of movie that is much more fun to talk about than to watch (at least for me), this archetypal art house film follows two mostly non-verbal tourists as they hike through the Caucuses under mostly overcast skies. Their local guide, slightly more loquacious, prattles on from time to time, offering random (sometimes plainly fabricated) bits of information.
  


The couple (Gael Garcia Bernal and beguiling, impressive Hani Furstenberg) enjoy each other’s company enough that they don’t appear to feel the need to chat about anything of consequence. They practice Spanish conjugation while they walk. They do headstands and count (“one chimpanzee, two chimpanzees,” etc, for like five minutes). They debate about whether to have sex in their tent while the guide is close by. We learn nothing about them, not really, until suddenly, out of absolutely nowhere, something shocking happens about halfway through the film, and then everything between them changes.


An existential film about trust, betrayal and the horror/inevitability of being alone in this world, The Loneliest Planet offers myriad topics for our discussion. The problem is the film is sleepily paced (it could have had a more powerful impact had 30 minutes been shaved off) and frustratingly oblique. Although there are some moments that linger in the mind in the days following the screening, I would never like to sit through it again. Ever. And, though this is likely precisely what filmmaker Julia Loktev was going for, it is tough to recommend a film that feels so deliberately un-entertaining.

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Urgent and remote at once, and The Loneliest Planet helps you to recognize your own limits, as well as the art of your understanding.
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Quite brilliantly, Julia Loktev's movie never explains the suicide bomber or makes her strange in order to ease your own mind. Rather, it makes you nervous both for and about her.
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