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A Gentle Creature 2017

A Gentle Creature | Krotkaya | Une Femme Douce | Die Sanfte | Кроткая | Nuolankioji | Лагiдна

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A woman whose name is not revealed... Her sole intention is to deliver a box full of supplies to her husband in prison.

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About A Gentle Creature 💬

Inspired by Dostoyevsky's short story, Sergei Loznitsa leads us into the land of crime without punishment - a journey into the abyss from the director of ''My Joy (2010), In the Fog (2012)''.

A woman lives alone on the outskirts of a village in Russia. One day she receives a parcel she sent to her incarcerated husband, marked 'return to sender'. Shocked and confused, the woman has no choice but to travel to the prison in a remote region of the country in search of an explanation. So begins the story of a battle against this impenetrable fortress, the prison where the forces of social evil are constantly at work. Braving violence and humiliation, in the face of all opposition, our protagonist embarks on a blind quest for justice.


Q: What was the genesis of A GENTLE CREATURE?

Sergey Loznitsa: My initial idea was to tell the story of a woman, of this woman. Her husband is in prison, she sends him a package and the package is returned to her. She doesn't understand why. She starts to inquire and the film begins... I didn't have an ending, I only had this plot outline. The ending I intended to write in the first draft of the script was very different from the one I ended up with. It took me several years to develop this story, and what remains now from the initial idea is the stoicism of the heroine and the dispassionate expression of her face: she doesn't smile once throughout the whole film.

Q: What does your film share with Dostoyevsky's short story A GENTLE CREATURE?

Sergey Loznitsa: Apart from the title, not much. I wanted to tell the story of a ''gentle'' woman, but not in the sense the word is used in Dostoevsky's title, and not in the sense which is usually ascribed to it in the Russian tradition. I have, however, used a direct quotation from Dostoevsky's Demons in the script. It is The Cockroach, the poem recited at the end of the banquet scene. One could also find many references to Gogol and Saltykov-Schedrin in my film.

Dostoevsky was interested in wounded ambitions, humiliating loss of self-esteem and the relationships that stem on such foundations and end up in a catastrophe. My interest lies in a different area. I was not going to do a study of a psychological profile of a repressed and abused person. I was interested in a space, in a habitat, in which such creatures are forced to exist. We know next to nothing about my heroine, we only know the principles, according to which the space she lives in exists. We study the habitat, in which she has to function. In my story, and, just like Dostoevsky, I prefer to call it a ''fantastic story'', the victim retains her role of a victim, while the torturer is not personified by one single character, but takes on a somewhat different shape - the sadistic qualities are distributed among a multitude of characters, and the physical space in which the victim exists is itself menacing and aggressive.

She is not particularly ''gentle'', she is a passive woman who lets herself get pushed around.

Q: What does ''gentle creature'' mean here?

Sergey Loznitsa: For me, this film is a metaphor for a country where people are constantly violated by each other. The country is bursting with all forms of violence. On the one hand, have total hypocrisy, gigantic lies and double standards, a perfect omerta... and on the other hand, you have horrendous things that continue to happen every single day. For me, this remains a painfully irresolvable enigma. Instead of living and going about things in a calm, friendly manner, at every stage of our lives we are forced to take a difficult, dishonest and sometimes terrible path. This is a horrible paradox, the worst of paradoxes, that I have been aware of since the age of five and that I still don't understand today.

The film's point of no return comes exactly an hour in, when the heroine is outside the prison. She stages a little private protest in front of the prison. A constellation of characters begins to appear around her and the story starts to unfold.

Q: In the final chapter, the story seems to take a new direction, to change the tone - it then returns the heroine to her starting point before its cruel ending.

Sergey Loznitsa: When I was writing, the conclusion became problematic. I thought that I didn't know how to end the film; in fact, I had an idea that I didn't dare express. And then I went for it... This led to the big scene towards the end, this sort of grotesque official banquet which is, in fact, the heroine's dream and which I consider to be a film within the film.

This little tour de force, however, wasn't enough to end on. It was a vital counterpoint but it didn't give the film it is ending. I have my ideal definition of an ending: it needs something of the unexpected inevitable. It's like when something happens in a book, a film or in life and you say ''I didn't expect that...'' Then when you reflect on it later, you think: ''Ah yes, in fact, it makes sense that things ended this way.'' It's, therefore, the very end, the real final scene, that literally makes the film, gives it its catharsis.

Before that, there's also a kind of first ending, when the character understands, and so does the audience, that everything she has been undertaking will lead to nothing, that she might as well have banged her head against the wall repeatedly: it's in this moment that she leaves the human rights activists, who can do nothing for her and who may even represent a threat.

There is also the theatrical joke, the dream of the banquet. And finally, the emotional culmination of the rape. I could have ended here but it might have been interpreted as a way of laboring the point about this world, this place, this cruel and horrible life, and it wouldn't have gone any further. I wanted to go further. I wanted to set in motion the idea of a cycle. What can be worse than the hell that is rape? It is the incessant repetition of this hell, to be raped your whole life.

Q: When the story turns into a dream, the style also changes radically.

Sergey Loznitsa: In my mind, the big banquet scene is a film within a film, where I can choose to change the style completely. I can draw attention to humor, the grotesque, to distance and to irony, which are purely self-defense mechanisms, a protection from harsh reality. In a film, as with any artistic project, what we refer to as ornaments are not only decorative: they also mark a territory to fend off evil spirits. This film should be seen as an ornament, a chalk line that we draw over and over again to ward off the evil spirits, to oppose them with a positive influence. I think there is something very interesting in this film, something that can touch the Russian soul: not only the intellect but also the soul.

Q: We often talk about the ''fatalism'' of the Slavic soul, which makes it endure everything. With your film, it seems we have gone from fatalism to complete nihilism.

Sergey Loznitsa: This is not nihilism, it's annihilation. Absolute destruction. A total dehumanization has occurred since the 1917 revolution. The Western view of Russia is defined by art, painting, literature, film. It's a view that belongs to a long-gone past. The great Russian writers remained in the past. This country's culture really began to take off in the nineteenth century. Considering Russia's pioneering art of the turn of the 20th century, the country could have come out on top at that time, but everything was swept away and we must forget this lost civilization. Rachmaninov was once asked whether he missed his country, if he was nostalgic about it. He replied that he didn't. Why? ''Because that country no longer exists.'' I think there was a period of long goodbyes to this broken country, and this farewell ceremony lasted until the end of the sixties. Since then, none of this exists anymore. The economy, medical science, healthcare, and education: everything has been totally destroyed. Just look at the average life expectancy of a Russian man: it is constantly falling and is now around 56 years. In certain fields, the government continues to apply the Bolshevik methods. Let's not forget that the idea of terrorism emerged in Russia: to carry out a public act involving innocent people so as to share the guilt of this act, this is an idea which could only emerge somewhere where life has no real value. Not just any mind can conjure up this idea. It's a sort of budding pseudo-philosophical intellectualism that claims: ''We kill not for our own good, but for the good of others.'' It is in Russia, with Nechayev, that this idea was born and it was he who carried the ideology of terrorism to its logical conclusion. It's very interesting to study or try to understand the intellectual structure of people who act this way today, to try and understand where it stems from.

To understand contemporary Russia, I recommend Demons by Dostoyevsky and Dead Souls by Gogol: all the principles at work in these novels are still active today. Everything that is said in these books still rings true. As soon as you cross the line that separates humans from the inhuman, it is almost impossible to turn back. Bearing this in mind, the Germans were lucky because the occupying forces forced them to ''de-Nazify'' German society. Whereas the people of this post-Soviet world continue to exist in the same hell. We thought that with Perestroika the radiant face of the future would emerge, but they were just the same! That was all just another illusion.

Q: You make both fiction and documentary films. How do you draw a line between the two?

Sergey Loznitsa: The breaks between my fiction films are rather long and I always want to do something else in between. This is when I create my documentaries, as these are not as demanding in terms of production. But fundamentally, I don't really make a difference between the two genres. From my point of view, documentaries don't have anything to do with reality; they are a reconstruction, if not a pure construction. We could say that theoretical physics represents fiction films and experimental physics represents the documentary film. So there must be ''experimental, theoretical physics'' and this is what best describes my work. I really want to continue to do both. Both allow us to discover and understand the world. When cameras were invented, one of the first things we imagined was the scientific value of these instruments. The notion of scientific recording emerges at the same time as the notion of entertainment. People are often scared of the word ''science'' when it comes to film. It's better to present things in the light of a study. If you claim to be doing something anthropological, you scare the audience away! But that's what I'm doing: visual anthropology, a study of the people around me. All of us can become the subject of a study, whether we like it or not.

A Gentle Creature Movie Details 🎥

Directed by

Sergey Loznitsa

Writing Credits

Sergey Loznitsa


Vasilina Makovtseva

Marina Kleshcheva

Liya Akhedzhakova

Valeriu Andriuta

Boris Kamorzin

Sergey Kolesov

Alisa Kravtsova

Vadim Dubovsky

Konstantin Itunin

Viktor Nemets

Sergey Fedorov

Svetlana Kolesova

Alexander Zamuraev

Sergey Russkin

Roza Khayrullina

Cinematography by

Oleg Mutu

Genres: Drama, Mystery

Countries: France, Germany, Russia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Ukraine, Latvia

A Gentle Creature Official Trailer

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