July 22, 2013 by Mithil
In my most recent pursuit to catch a foreign film, I found myself sitting with a latte at a public screening watching 2011 Russian movie ‘Elena’ directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev. The latte made me late by 2-3 minutes but fortunately I didn’t miss much of it.
Vladimir, a considerably rich man in his late sixties lives with a woman named Elena whom he married 10 yrs ago. Elena from a middle class family first met Vladimir when she was nursing him at hospital. Both have children’s from previous relationship and they all grown up. In a weird way couples are sole source of income for their children i.e. respective children of course. While Vladimir supports his daughter who is shown as free spirit 30 something lady who don’t give shit about leading a responsible life. Elena on the other hand is indispensable to the needs of his son’s family. She gives most of her pension money to his son who cares less to earn a living by getting a job. He instead spends his day smoking cigarettes, emptying beer bottles and lazing around the house. Already father to 2 children he is expecting another one with his wife. As you can see the situation is basically not we would expect in a ideal world, in fact this is opposite. While Vladimir and Elena debate and argue who deserves the money more and who is more irresponsible, you see kind of ambiguity that lights up through these conversations. Wait there is a dangerous and ‘murderous’ twist coming in the second half and the basic morality in questions will be going for a toss.
If you have already seen the movie then please read the trivia section of this movie on IMDB. It gives the movie whole lot more meaning and opens up the movie for a different thought process on a new level. The movie on the other hand doesn’t drop such hints and instead gives an impeccable narration. That may be the best thing about the movie. The poignancy is also a major factor all through the movie, there are moments when the camera pans in and out or stays rigid and let life around it grow and express. Although for a first timer this type of situations may seem confusing, but having an open mind might make you see things differently.
Speaking about ambiguity, reminds me of this scenes that shone the light on such beautiful direction. So Elena wants money for her grandson education and she request Vladimir to help him since her son is unable to do so. Vladimir refuses giving reasons like her son should be responsible enough to provide for his son if he had planned to bring him in this world. In other scene where Vladimir over an animated conversation tells his single daughter to go and have kids, it will make her more responsible. You can see the incoherency in the conversation as Vladimir has irrational love towards his daughter. The director does drop such small subtle hints without actually shoving the message to our faces.
The movie is also beautifully captured from the lush apartment in the city to the small apartment in suburbs. The transition is beautiful and am told after reading some reviews that it displays the social divide between the rich and poor. The end is pretty unconventional.
Nadezhda Markina puts such fantastic performance as the aggrieved mother. She gets to the screen of the character and we find our self recognizing with this person. The there is Andrey Smirnov as Vladimir the rich, arrogant person played to such finesse. That conversation with her daughter was symbolic of his contribution. Others do play important parts and deserve equal accolades but these two are the performers in this movie. The music is very apt with the situation, in the darker moments it rises to a crescendo giving ‘impending doom’ feel. The director Andrey Zvyagintsev deserves a hat tip for such impressive work (I am told he has done better).
Elena for me is a kind of window into the future, where there will be rich and poor and the term humanity will be modified accordingly. It also shows the parents indefinite and undying love towards their children and the will to do anything to make them happy. I will surely ask you people to give it a watch.