A woman lives alone on the outskirts of a village in Russia. One day she receives a parcel she sent to her incarcerated husband, marked 'return to sender'. Shocked and confused, the woman has no choice but to travel to the prison in a remote region of the country in search of an explanation. So begins the story of a battle against this impenetrable fortress, the prison where the forces of social evil are constantly at work. Braving violence and humiliation, in the face of all opposition, our protagonist embarks on a blind quest for justice.


original title
english title
France, Germany, Lithuania, The Netherlands
143 min
aspect ratio
film format


written & directed
Sergei Loznitsa
director(s) of photography
Oleg Mutu R.S.C.
production designer
Kirill Shuvalov
costume designer
Dorota Roqueplo
Vladimir Golovnitski
Danielius Kokanauskis
Marianne Slot
Arte France Cinéma, GP Cinéma Company, Looksfilm, Studio Uljana Kim, Wild at Art, Graniet Film, Solar Media Entertainment
Slot Machine SARL
with the support of
Eurimages, Aide aux Cinémas du Monde, Aide à la Coproduction Franco-allemande, Centre National du Cinéma et de l'Image Animée, Institut Français, Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung, Filmförderungsanstalt, Netherlands Film Fund, Netherlands Film Production Incentive, National Film Centre of Latvia, Riga Film Fund, Lithuanian Film Centre, Lithuanian National Radio and Television, le Programme Europe Créative MEDIA de l'Union Européenne


A Gentle Creature
Vasilina Makovtseva
The Compassionate One
Marina Kleshcheva
Human Rights Activist
Lia Akhedzhakova
Blue Face
Valeriu Andriuta
Man With Plaster Cast
Boris Kamorzin
Sergei Kolesov

'A Gentle Creature' ('Krotkaya'): Film Review | Cannes 2017by Leslie Felperin, 2017-05-25,

Only tenuously related to the Dostoyevsky story of the same name and the 1969 film adaptation of that source material by Robert Bresson, this harrowing tale revolves around a stoical unnamed woman (Vasilina Makovtseva) stuck in a nightmarish Siberian prison town.

A Gentle Creatureby Giovanni Marchini Camia, 2017-05-25,

“Man is a wolf to his fellow man,” quotes a character early in Sergei Loznitsa’s A Gentle Creature. The ordeal suffered by its protagonist will indeed be solitary, poor, nasty, and brutish – it won’t be short, however.

A Gentle Creature – first look reviewby David Jenkins, 2017-05-25,

This inevitably makes for dreary and punishing cinema, a film that will have you leaving the auditorium with head slung low. Makovtseva is low-key excellent in the lead, somehow remaining completely mysterious and blank at a character, but doing just enough so that you pine for her to survive the next violent encounter. Yet the film is something of a bust, and its conceited dedication to despair presents a world which feels wholly disconnected from reality.

Films of the Week: Cannes Week 2 – Russian Storiesby Jonathan Romney, 2017-05-26,

It depicts the Russian experience as an intersection between Dostoevsky and Kafka, although that doesn’t quite begin to capture its extremity—or suggest the redeeming grain of hope that, despite everything, its heroine embodies. Loznitsa’s film is the one competition entry in Cannes this year that I absolutely want to see again—and not just for the moments that sleep made me miss.

‘A Gentle Creature,’ ‘Good Time’ and ‘You Were Never Really Here’ bring late highs to a middling competitionby Justin Chang, 2017-05-28,

Unequivocally one of the toughest, darkest and longest movies playing in competition… It’s about as strange, perplexing and foreign an experience as any I’ve had at the Festival de Cannes, and the reasons that will limit its commercial viability are the very reasons that you should seek it out, if and when it arrives in your local art-house theater.

Cannes 2017. Russia's Prison System—Sergei Loznitsa's "A Gentle Creature"by Daniel Kasman, 2017-05-29,

Deftly weaving between politically ambitious documentary projects and brooding, chunky dramas exploring the malignant side of Russian society, Ukraianian director Sergei Loznitsa follows Austerlitz, last year’s documentary on concentration camp tourism, with the fictional A Gentle Creature, an impressively morose, dense, and totalizing immersion into the dehumanizing absurdity of the Russian prison system.

Cannes Interview: Sergei LoznitsaBy Jordan Cronk, 2017-05-31,

It’s at once Losnitza’s most furiously pitched and painstakingly constructed work to date, moving ahead with an appropriately methodical rigor even as it reaches heights of hallucinogenic madness in its final stretch. It’s a sobering and troubling vision, rendered in vivid strokes by a consummate thinker and master craftsman.

What is the Cinema?: The 2017 Cannes Film Festivalby Daniel Fairfax, 2017-06-22,

Among the highlights of the festival, Russian films featured prominently. Indeed, on the basis of the evidence at Cannes, if there is any nation that is still capable of producing resolutely cinematic works, it is the land that, one hundred years ago, was consumed in a revolutionary storm the effects of which we can still feel today.

Catastrophes on ParadeBy Nicolas Rapold, 2017-08-01,

Admittedly, one film that kept my eyes wide open might well fall into the category of cruel and unusual experiments. But Sergei Loznitsa gives his latest work, A Gentle Creature, a rude (in every sense) chaotic energy and a lunatic desperation that’s grimly comic when not stomach-churning.

A Gentle Creatureby Chloe Lizotte, 2017-10-17,

It’s more of a destabilizing shock to the system than a call to arms, a confrontation with a broken state rather than a blueprint to rebuild it. It confirms Loznitsa as a master craftsman of the impeccably designed and crafted hellscape, politically charged and all-consuming. Although he takes a bombastic route to a horrific finale, it’s often the muted, wordless scenes that linger the most in the mind.

Dubai International Film Festival 2017: A Gentle Creature, You Were Never Really Here, The Message, & Moreby Steve Macfarlane , 2017-12-22,

What really lingers is Losnitza’s skill as choreographer: Many of his scenes consist of long single takes starting from a seemingly innocuous in-point and slowly jostling both audience and heroine into the next phase of this punishing environment but never stopping the film’s flow to scream “bravura set piece.” The effect is enveloping, naturalistic, yet claustrophobic.

A Tale of Two Festivals: International Film Festival of India and Experimentaby Parichay Patra, 2018-03-01,

Loznitsa’s consistent movements between the apparent documentation of the “real” in non-fiction and the semblance of the real in the façade of a fictional universe bewilders everyone familiar with his canon, as he seems incorruptible, unperturbed by the onslaught of the festival circuit.

AFM/AFI FEST 2017: Magic Women, Haptic Menby Bérénice Reynaud, 2018-03-01,

Vasilina Makovtseva is as quietly beautiful as Dominique Sanda and she exudes a similar, magic radiance even at the moment of her defeat. Through the fable of a woman looking for her incarcerated husband, Loznitza returns to his topic of choice: an evocation, bordering on the improbable and the surreal, of a long-time malaise in the countries of the former Soviet Union.

“But It’s Not Real”: Rape As Metaphor In Sergei Loznitsa’s ‘A Gentle Creature’by Katie Goh, 2018-04-29,

A Gentle Creature is a hell of infinitely repeated rapes for its protagonist, an unnamed woman played by Vasilina Makovsteva in present day Russia. Taking its name and inspiration from a Dostoyevsky novella, A Gentle Creature is as tediously grim as you’d expect.

Russian Cinema Under the Gaze of Putin: Truth in the Face of Despairby Vadim Rizov, 2018-06-20,

Shot in the ultra-wide 2.66:1 ratio (last seen in, of all things, Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, 2015), A Gentle Creature demonstrates Loznitsa’s impeccably rigorous knack for diorama staging and impeccable choreography, keeping his aesthetic verve in the face of atrocity.

Global Discoveries on DVD: Some Blessings and Curses of Cinephiliaby Jonathan Rosenbaum, 2019-01-02,

Part of the trick of Loznitsa’s nightmarish, black-comic assembly of bureaucratic and brute horrors in contemporary Russia is to keep us guessing how much it’s a realistic depiction . . . and how much of it is grotesque exaggeration and satire, until these ambiguities eventually give way to the heroine’s own literal nightmare as a summation.

festivals & awards

  • Cannes Film Festival
  • IndieLisboa International Independent Film Festival
  • Göteborg Film Festival
  • Asia Pacific Screen AwardsNominee: Best Feature Film
  • Melbourne International Film Festival
  • Dubai International Film Festival
  • Busan International Film Festival
  • Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival
  • Jerusalem Film Festival
  • Munich Film Festival
  • Helsinki International Film Festival - Love & Anarchy
  • Belfast Film Festival
  • Hong Kong International Film Festival
  • Camerimage
  • Warsaw International Film Festival
  • Mumbai Film Festival