Though many will probably hail The Loneliest Planet as a quiet, gripping drama, describing it with words like “contemplative” and “meditative,” what it really is, is a tedious overlong film with too many shots of the mountains. In writer/director Julia Loktev’s new film Gael García Bernal (The Motorcycle Diaries) and Hani Furstenberg play a young couple, engaged to be married, who decide to take a backpacking trip through the Georgian mountains. Why exactly these mountains isn’t clear. They don’t really seem the dare devil type – Furstenberg’s character is actually kind of clumsy – and the Georgian mountains don’t particularly strike one as a place for sightseeing. They have their fair share of striking scenery, which Loktev is only too eager to capture, yet, after the first forty-five minutes the viewer already feels exhausted by this lonely environment so one can only imagine how the characters must feel. Whatever the reason, they are there, hiking through the mountains with Bidzinia Gujabidze as their guide. The mountains are a green but barren place with little to see and less to do, so very little happens in the course of the movie, save one or two small incidents which have a large impact on the character’s relationships. Here, finally, is something the viewer can enjoy. When, halfway to the end, the incident (shall we call it) does finally happen, our mouths salivate; finally some food for thought in this barren wasteland. And delicious food it is. The tiny incident, is realistically the kind of thing that could change the course of an entire relationship. It’s the kind of thing, as the film’s trailer rightly puts it, that makes one question just how well one knows someone. On top of this it calls into question numerous assumptions about gender roles and what society expects of each sex, but the problem remains that it’s only food for thought. It’s like conceptual art or a Duchamp ready-made piece: It’s lots of fun to talk about but not so much fun to watch. Yet, this is exactly what Loktev wants – forces – the viewer to do. The result is less a movie going experience and more a conversation piece; for some this may work, for others it may not.
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