****/**** Image B Sound B- Extras C+
starring Gael Garcia Bernal, Hani Furstenberg, Bidzina Gujabidze
screenplay by Julia Loktev, based on the short story by Tom Bissell
directed by Julia Loktev
by Walter Chaw Julia Loktev's The Loneliest Planet is an existentially terrifying little film about life's essential loneliness, the absolute mutability of interpersonal relationships, and the ways our identities are formed not only by our perceptions of others, but by our preconceptions of the roles we play and, in turn, cast others to play, unbeknownst to them or to anyone. It gives the lie to the possibility of an unconditional relationship, to the idea that we can ever truly know ourselves or the people with whom we choose to share our lives. Most uncomfortably of all, it posits that everything we believe, everything we hold most dear about who we are and who we think we are, can change in an instant. It's about love in that way, but love only in the context of the brutal, capricious, arbitrary world--love in the sense that we invest everything in it in acts of faith entirely unjustified by Nature and circumstance. There's a scene in The Loneliest Planet where two pairs of feet play with each other on top of a sleeping bag, followed fast, after something small but terrible happens, by the owner of one pair of those feet watching the owner of the other walk away and eventually disappear into the ugly, insensate terrain of Russian Georgia's Caucasus mountains. I think it's no accident that the film takes place there, where mythology places Titan Prometheus in his eternal torment: Prometheus the bringer of fire, and life, and foresight (literally, in his name)--the father of Man flayed bare and reintroduced to the carnal night.