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Russia 2011. Dir: Andrey Zvyagintsev. 109 min. DCP

“Spellbinding and impeccably crafted ... Performances are superb across the board, framed in elegant widescreen compositions that simmer with violence.”

Winner of a Special Jury Prize at Cannes, Andrey Zvyagintsev’s superb third feature, co-written by the Russian director, is a Dostoevskian moral thriller that dials back the abstract in favour of a more grounded, socially situated point of entry. Nadezhda Markina, in a remarkably nuanced performance, is Elena, a middle-aged nurse of modest means who leapfrogs her social status by marrying Vladimir (Andrey Smirnov), an affluent, aging former patient. Now living in a luxury condo amid the upper rungs of Moscow society, Elena must act in order to secure her and her feckless son’s futures when Vladimir, fallen ill, threatens to write Elena out of his will. Evocatively shot widescreen by regular cinematographer Mikhail Krichman, and featuring music by mood-conjuring composer Philip Glass (who scored Paul Schrader’s Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, also screening in January), this noir-tinged parable of Russian class conflict evinced Zvyagintsev as an artist of increasingly political — and polemical — dexterity.



"A quiet, subtle mystery whose long, penetrating takes have drawn comparisons to Andrei Tarkovsky and whose mordantly ironic conclusion may remind you of Claude Chabrol."

Chicago Reader | full review