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From The London Film Festival 2017: ‘Grain’ is a Tarkovsky Influenced Sci-Fi in Stunning Black and White

In a post-apocalyptic thriller where a manmade grain has supplanted all other crops but is now beginning to fail, a lone scientist leaves the safety of the city to try and find a man who seems to have all of the answers. As the two men meet and begin a spiritual journey through the wasteland in search of pure soil, all of their beliefs are challenged.

Andrei Tarkovsky was clearly an influence on this film. Certain scenes powerfully invoked Stalker (Dir. Tarkovky 1979). A side character is even named Andrei. The film also shares a subject matter with Stalker as a small group of men must search a desolate landscape in search of answers to the suffering of the world but only really explore themselves. The film does manage to capture some small measure of the scale and power of Tarkovsky’s work.

I enjoyed the gorgeous black and white cinematography (Giles Nuttgens) of the film and director’s Semih Kaplanoglu’s deliberate pacing. I’d have liked to have seen more of the futuristic city before the men embarked on their quest into the barren wilds. Immigrants into the city are forced to undertake a dehumanising border check before they are allowed in. If anyone tries to rush in they will be immolated by a terrifying invisible wall of fire. I found these sequences to be amongst the most engaging.

Once we’re into the main thrust of the story, which is two men alone in the wilderness, I couldn’t help but compare it unfavourably to Embrace of the Serpent (Dir. Cico Guerra 2016), which also featured men with different philosophies undertaking an epic quest into the unknown and encountering great devastation. I felt less invested in the weighty themes of Grain. It’s a beautiful looking film but one I’ve little interested in dissecting for meaning.

3 / 5

Paul Salt is the co-host of One Good Thing.