A Gentle Creature ★★★

Quite a concept: a dystopian tour crafted around a passive, "gentle" presence—defined throughout by silence and acquiescence—that then sharply re-frames those qualities in the final half-hour. Which is to say that the overall shape of this is admirable, even if the particulars can be rather trying, limited in behavioral insight and often single-minded in their effects—fitting for a film defined by a lack of choice (e.g. the taxi driver that only goes to two destinations: the hotel or prison), but still of narrow interest. Compositions are panoramic, the flow is digressive, yet the overall impression is intensely claustrophobic, the "sacred" prisons — or the idea of them (we never actually see the inside of one) — a stand-in for the nation itself. Pivots crucially at the train station (in images that practically mirror Loznitsa's short, The Train Stop [2000]), a location that one is liable to "fall asleep and get lost" in, where the tendrils of narrative implicitly spread out in all directions (with the sight of the gentle creature lost entirely, for one canny beat). Afterwards, the tone (and visual palette) slips into something else entirely—a slightly overlong sequence that still seems dubious in the moment, but segues intensely, achieving a disorienting, 'How did I get here?'-whiplash before circling back around to the train station fulcrum. And the ending (which repeats an earlier composition), resonates well—tenacious affirmation by way of resigned cynicism. A difficult ride, to be sure, but the destination may be worth it.

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