Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: Zach Galifianakis Takes On Brad Pitt In Latest 'Between Two Ferns' Plus Louis C.K. Stops By Watch: Zach Galifianakis Takes On Brad Pitt In Latest 'Between Two Ferns' Plus Louis C.K. Stops By Watch: First Trailer For 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron,' Brings Mass Destruction Along With Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver Watch: First Trailer For 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron,' Brings Mass Destruction Along With Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver Watch: 'Star Wars' Prequels Recut Into 2 Hour 40 Minute 'Turn to the Darkside: Episode 3.1' Watch: 'Star Wars' Prequels Recut Into 2 Hour 40 Minute 'Turn to the Darkside: Episode 3.1' Edward Norton Says He Didn't Return To Play Hulk Because He Wanted More "Diversity" In His Film Roles Edward Norton Says He Didn't Return To Play Hulk Because He Wanted More "Diversity" In His Film Roles Oscar Buzz: Who Could Be Set For Nods In The Supporting Actress Race? Oscar Buzz: Who Could Be Set For Nods In The Supporting Actress Race? Juliette Binoche Says Her Performance In 'Godzilla' Made Quentin Tarantino Cry Juliette Binoche Says Her Performance In 'Godzilla' Made Quentin Tarantino Cry Listen To Chvrches "Get Away" From The Rescored Version Of Nicolas Winding Refn's 'Drive' Plus Check Out The Trailer Listen To Chvrches "Get Away" From The Rescored Version Of Nicolas Winding Refn's 'Drive' Plus Check Out The Trailer The Essentials: The 10 Best Michael Keaton Performances The Essentials: The 10 Best Michael Keaton Performances George Lucas Says Studios "Don't Have Any Imagination And Don't Have Any Talent" George Lucas Says Studios "Don't Have Any Imagination And Don't Have Any Talent" Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5, Episode 7 ‘Friendless Child’ Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5, Episode 7 ‘Friendless Child’ Watch: Spoiler-ific Local News Report On 'Batman v. Superman' That Caused WB To Lauch A Lawsuit Watch: Spoiler-ific Local News Report On 'Batman v. Superman' That Caused WB To Lauch A Lawsuit Watch: Baz Luhrmann's Chanel No. 5 Short Film "The One That I Want" Starring Gisele Bündchen Watch: Baz Luhrmann's Chanel No. 5 Short Film "The One That I Want" Starring Gisele Bündchen WTF: Horror Hit 'Annabelle' Yanked From French Theaters Due To Rioting WTF: Horror Hit 'Annabelle' Yanked From French Theaters Due To Rioting Gone Girls And Gone Boys: 11 Films That Dissect Marriage Gone Girls And Gone Boys: 11 Films That Dissect Marriage Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Interview: 'Elena' Director Andrei Zvyagintsev Talks Changed Ending, Favorite Filmmakers

Photo of Christopher Bell By Christopher Bell | The Playlist May 17, 2012 at 5:45PM

Cinephiles, unite! The name Andrei Zvyagintsev is relatively unknown on these shores, as his remarkable debut "The Return" quietly came and went (though it is now on Netflix Instant -- GO!) and his tremendous sophomore effort "The Banishment" never saw a proper release in the West. That's all about to change with "Elena," his third and most refined piece of work, which not only saw a premiere at Cannes Film Festival but also left with the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize. Zvyagintsev's aesthetic might make him seem like Andrei Tarkovsky II, but his voice is still his own, eschewing his mentor's liberal use of magic for more grounded, realistic stories.
2
Elena' Director Andrei Zvyagintsev

Cinephiles, unite! The name Andrei Zvyagintsev is relatively unknown on these shores, as his remarkable debut "The Return" quietly came and went (though it is now on Netflix Instant -- GO!) and his tremendous sophomore effort "The Banishment" never saw a proper release in the West. That's all about to change with "Elena," his third and most refined piece of work, which not only saw a premiere at Cannes Film Festival but also left with the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize. Zvyagintsev's aesthetic might make him seem like Andrei Tarkovsky II, but his voice is still his own, eschewing his mentor's liberal use of magic for more grounded, realistic stories.

Set in contemporary Russia, the film follows the titular character (Nadezhda Markina) as she cares for her wealthy second husband Vladimir (Andrey Smirnov) in a gigantic penthouse apartment, in a high-class area of the country. By contrast, Elena's jobless son Sergey dwells in a lower-income section with his family, faced with the dilemma of whether to have his son Sasha join the military because they can't afford school. It's up to grandma to sort things out, but unfortunately, Vladimir refuses to cough up a single penny, citing Elena's son as lazy and irresponsible. Why should he continue to support him? He's got a point, but his wife must also think about the welfare of her blood -- which leads to some drastic measures.

Elena

It's a premise ripe for a thriller, but Zvyagintsev's film is subtle, slow, and quiet, using a genre-esque story to instead explore the notion of family, and the inherent conflict between class divisions. In promotion for "Elena," we had the pleasure of chatting with the filmmaker about the changes made to the original script, his favorite directors, and his excision from the rather shoddy "New York, I Love You." "Elena" opens in New York today and you can watch the trailer here.

Once Was An Apocalypse
Originally, "Elena" was born as a US-production, focusing on characters dealing with the apocalypse. That eventually fell through and the project was relocated to Russia, with Zvyagintsev and screenwriter Oleg Negin excising any actual reference to the end of the world, but retaining the main characters and relationships. Still, there's a grim, hopeless coat that remains on the film. "When it comes to humanity, human beings, the essence of human beings, there's definitely an apocalyptic tone -- reevaluating your values, your spiritual values," commenting on the build-up to Elena's ultimate decision to deal with her husband and the soul-searching she embarks upon afterwards: "Kind of an entropy, the state of entropy."

He Loves Match Point
Well, maybe. Here he runs down a list of a few filmmakers he enjoys and how he likes to see their movies: "I like to watch a story I know nothing about. I choose the director that I see. Coen Brothers, P.T. Anderson, Woody Allen. I'm not going to read about the movie or see trailers, I want to preserve the intimacy between the movie and myself." Apparently, he's as juiced for "The Master" as we all are.

This article is related to: Elena , Andrei Zvyagintsev, Interview


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates