Post-modern time-waster gives Lonely Planet a bad name

Loneliest Planet

Don’t be fooled by the looks on their faces. Nothing is actually happening.

This article first appeared in Farrago (Issue 2, 2013)

It all begins with a naked red-haired woman. She jumps up and down, creaking the floor boards with every bounce. She appears distraught, if not mentally unstable. The scene makes no sense, but that’s okay. The film has only just begun; you reason that surely things will explain themselves in due time.

They don’t. Indeed, with hindsight, it becomes clear that this opening is nothing more than an attention-grabbing stunt, probably included in the final cut to compensate for the tedious 112 minutes that follow.

The Loneliest Planet follows soon-to-be-married couple Alex (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Nica (Hani Furstenberg) as they slowly hike through the picturesque Caucasus Mountains in Georgia. Meanwhile, director Julia Loktev decides the best way to simulate the passing of time is to make her audiences sit in their seats and wait.

Occasionally, red herrings pop up and threaten to make Alex and Nica’s story interesting. But every distraction is nothing more than that – an irrelevant plot device intended to trick the audience into thinking something is happening.

Sure enough, one hour into the film, something actually does happen. It’s an engaging moment, not least for its capacity to awaken the audience from their dreamy slumber. Barring this scene, however, The Loneliest Planet makes vain efforts to reconcile its ridiculous running time, creating nothing more than false intrigue and unnecessary suspense.

I don’t necessarily have any qualms with this film technique. What I do find offensive is the absence of a point. Filmmakers should be able to justify every second of their film, and deliver a message to their audience. Likewise, filmgoers should subsequently be able to leave a theatre knowing they’ve learned something insightful about life or the human race.

The Loneliest Planet has a few vague take-home messages at best. Realistically though, it only really has enough quality content to fill a 10-minute short film – which is no surprise, given the film is based on a short story.

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