You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Loneliest Planet

When two hipsters go on a guided camping expedition in the Caucasus Mountains, an incident tears a rift between them in "The Loneliest Planet," writer-helmer Julia Loktev's powerful, exquisitely lensed third feature.

With: Gael Garcia Bernal, Hani Furstenberg, Bidzina Gujabidze. (English, Georgian, Spanish dialogue)

When two hipsters go on a guided camping expedition in the Caucasus Mountains, an incident tears a rift between them in “The Loneliest Planet,” writer-helmer Julia Loktev’s powerful, exquisitely lensed third feature. As with her previous film, “Day Night Day Night,” Loktev withholds vital information here about her characters’ inner thoughts, a strategy that will provoke passionate arguments over post-screening drinks, perhaps enhancing word of mouth. More commercially viable than “Day Night,” especially given its spectacular use of locations and the presence of star Gael Garcia Bernal, pic should trek around the fest circuit and pitch camp with specialty distributors.

Practically no backstory is provided about protagonists Alex (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Nica (Gotham-born, Israel-based thesp Hani Furstenberg), but what’s clear is that they’re seasoned travelers who pride themselves, perhaps a little smugly, on roughing it in countries off the usual tourist track. Clearly, they’re also besotted with each other, evinced in scenes of them canoodling, frisking like puppies or making love in low-lit, odd-angled shots.

After haggling in a local burg for a guide, they retain the services of Dato (real mountaineer Bidzina Gujabidze) to steer them through the extraordinary, grass-clad mountains of the Khevi region. Much of the pic’s first hour unspools through continuous handheld shots of the threesome trudging along with backpacks, telling stories when they’re not silently concentrating on navigating treacherous terrain. At regular interludes, long-distance shots observe them dwarfed by the landscape as Richard Skelton’s haunting, rhythmic, ethnically inflected score intones in the background.

An encounter on the trail turns into a near-life-threatening test of manhood that Alex arguably fails. Thereafter, none of the characters discuss what happened, but it casts a profound pall over the adventure, shifting allegiances and sympathies among the threesome. Auds are bound to differ over how to interpret the turning point and its consequences, while those who know the source material, a short story called “Expensive Trips Nowhere” by Tom Bissell, might quibble that Loktev’s recasting the couple as younger lovers weakens the psychological credibility of Alex’s actions. But other viewers may recognize a core emotional truth about how deeply travel tests relationships, how a single instinctive action can shift the ground irrevocably between people, and how no words can make things right.

The realism is enhanced by nuanced, semi-improvised perfs from Bernal and Furstenberg. The way they silently project Alex and Nica’s anger, disappointment and the faint rekindling of affection later on impresses just as much as their willingness to take physical risks. Loktev’s muscular, distinctive helming percussively deploys repetition and shock cuts (she also takes a co-editing credit) that’s of a piece with “Day Night Day Night” and her docu “Moment of Impact.”

However, it’s the craftsmanship of Chilean lenser Inti Briones, who has worked with Raul Ruiz and Cristian Jimenez, that really steals the show here. Using a Red camera rigged to carry Soviet Lomo prime lenses that lend a Slavic softness to the proceedings, Briones makes the landscape look both achingly romantic and malevolent, offering nowhere to hide in this treeless expanse.

The Loneliest Planet


Production: A Parts and Labor, Flying Moon production in association with Wild Invention in co-production with ZDF Das Kleine Fernsehspiel, in cooperation with Arte, with support from Hessen Invest Film. (International sales: the Match Factory, Cologne.) Produced by Jay Van Hoy, Lars Knudsen, Helge Albers, Marie Therese Guirgis. Executive producers, Shelby Alan Brown, Gregory Shockro, Dallas M. Brennan, Rabinber Sira, Chris Gilligan, Hunter Gray. Directed, written by Julia Loktev, based on the short story "Expensive Trips Nowhere" by Tom Bissell.

Crew: Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Inti Briones; editor, Michael Taylor, Loktev; music, Richard Skelton; production designer, Rabiah Troncelliti; art director, Elina Shahnazarova; costume designer, Troncelliti; sound, Michel Kloefkorn; sound designer, Martin Hernandez; supervising sound editor, Hernandez; re-recording mixers, Chris Johnston, Mark Hernandez; line producer, Jana Sardlishvili; associate producers, Roshanak Behesht Nedjad, Tao Hong; assistant director, Zaza Rusadze. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (competing), Aug. 10, 2011. Running time: 113 MIN.

Cast: With: Gael Garcia Bernal, Hani Furstenberg, Bidzina Gujabidze. (English, Georgian, Spanish dialogue)

More Scene

  • Katie HolmesAT&T Presents: Untold Stories Luncheon

    Katie Holmes, Kal Penn Help Decide Winner of $1 Million Filmmaker Grant

    Tribeca Film Festival and AT&T gave one young filmmaker a million and one reasons to rejoice at the “Untold Stories” third annual competition. After a nerve-wracking 10-minute long pitch in front of over 850,000 live stream audience members and a panel consisting of celebrities and industry leaders, filmmaker Kate Tsang was awarded $1 million Monday [...]

  • Laurie Metcalf, John Lithgow'Hillary and Clinton'

    Why John Lithgow Worried About Starring in Broadway's 'Hillary and Clinton'

    When Lucas Hnath first conceived of “Hillary and Clinton” in 2008, he was writing for and about a very different America. Now, a total reimagining of the show has made its way to Broadway with Laurie Metcalf and John Lithgow in the titular roles. At the opening on Thursday night, the cast and creatives talked [...]

  • Patrick Page, Amber Grey, Eva Noblezada,

    'Hadestown' Took 12 Years to Get to Broadway, but It's More Relevant Than Ever

    When “Hadestown” was first staged as a tiny, DIY theater project in Vermont, those involved could never have predicted that it was the start of a 12-year journey to Broadway — or how painfully relevant it would be when it arrived. At Wednesday night’s opening at the Walter Kerr Theatre, the cast and creatives discussed [...]

  • Mick Jagger

    Mick Jagger Makes First Post-Surgery Appearance at Rolling Stones Ballet Premiere

    Rock legend Mick Jagger made his first public appearance post-heart surgery on Thursday night to catch a glimpse of the world premiere of the Rolling Stones ballet “Porte Rouge.” “I hope you are going to enjoy this wonderful new ballet, and, of course, the music,” the frontman declared in a pre-recorded message to the audience [...]

  • Adam Driver appears at the curtain

    Adam Driver on Starring in 'Burn This' for a Second Time

    The Hudson Theatre’s new production of “Burn This” marks its first Broadway revival since it premiered on the Great White Way in 1987, but Adam Driver is no stranger to the work. He starred as Pale in a Juilliard production of the Lanford Wilson drama when he was still a student — and only now, [...]

  • PMC Event Rome

    Film, Fashion, Formula E Mix at Rome E-Prix Bash

    Film, fashion and Formula E auto-racing fused during a dinner and celebration of the Rome E-Prix on Thursday at the Palazzo Dama by the Piazza del Popolo in the heart of the Eternal City.  Guests mingled and sipped cocktails as hors d’oeuvres were passed around in a former home of the Italian nobility with conversation [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content