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'The Loneliest Planet': Human drama meets nature movie

The lonely couple of "The Loneliest Planet"
The lonely couple of "The Loneliest Planet"
2012 IFC Films

“The Loneliest Planet” is a nature movie and drama about an engaged North American couple and their guide backpacking through the beautiful Caucasus Mountains of Georgia.

The movie is being marketed as a thriller but that’s misleading because it’s far from it, which might explain why audiences reacted poorly to this movie where as critics received it more strongly. There is a disturbing incident in the mountains that threatens to change the relationship between Nica (Hani Furstenberg) and Alex (Gael Garcia Bernal). But it’s more of a mechanism to move forward a drama about the inherent loneliness of individuality – even in a close romantic relationship – rather than part of a thriller.

And that must be the meaning of the title, plus it accurately makes the movie sound like a Discovery Channel series, which captures its unique cross of drama and nature movie.

The movie is all about looking. We look at the beautiful mountains, Nica and Alex look at everything through a wide-eyed and slightly patronizing look, and we’re looking at Nica. She’s pretty and her distinct red hair makes her look even better contrasted against the mountains. But there’s a difference between photographing beauty and ogling. From the opening scene onwards the camera lingers on her constantly and it’s a little uncomfortable.

According to John Berger, men look at women’s beauty and women look at men looking at their beauty and loose some autonomy in the process. Is this supposed to play into the isolation of the characters? It feels like the camera is adopting that look rather than using it as a way to show how people are disconnected from each other.

I think looking at the landscape is the best part of the movie. The sublime mountains create a serene quality but it becomes overplayed. The movie is a little long and because of its slow, deliberate pace and long duration shots, by the time the movie’s over things begin to feel a little tedious. Had the runtime been shortened up the impact of the movie would have been more concentrated and effective. If 23 minutes had been cut than the runtime would have been an hour-and-a-half even and it would have played much better. But despite its problems, this is an admirable attempt at an original movie.

**1/2 (out of 4)

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David Jackson can be reached at davidjackson.calgaryexaminer@gmail.com.