The Loneliest Planet
Based on Tom Bissell’s short story “Expensive Trips Nowhere”, Julia Loktev’s second feature is a world apart from Day Night Day Night, but retains her debut’s tense, female-centric perspective in narrating a single-minded story about the shattering of two psyches.
The set-up: a young couple, recently engaged and possessing a mild, entitled arrogance, backpacking through a foreign country. Nica (Hani Furstenberg), has a sense of the place and the language (Georgian), the Mexican-born Alex (Gael Garcia Bernal), can fumble his way through a few phrases, but seems intent on helping her rediscovery her ancestral culture.
After partying their way through some small villages, they hire a shifty local guide to lead them into the deserted Caucasus mountains and valleys. (The film’s tournage must have proven challenging, as Loktev often shoots handheld traveling shot through rocky terrain.) And then something happens—it’s not fair to say what this game-changing event is, but, then again, Loktev never makes it clear what it is, nor is it ever discussed between Nica and Alex.
We move to a place beyond language, reminiscent of Antonioni, where the stunning backdrops of the Georgian countryside transform from emblems of freedom to looming clouds of doom. A film about small gestures, about silence and the need for forgiveness, about being close to someone but being psychologically miles apart, The Loneliest Planet is a stunning evocation of a relationship and a haunted place, intertwined.Mark Peranson