Dir: Andrey Zvyagintsev
Cast: Nadezhda Markina, Andrey Smirnov, Elena Lyadova, Alexei Rozin
Country of Origin: Russia
2011Un Certain Regard Special Jury Prize Cannes 2011 Language: Russian with English subtitles 109 mins.
' Elena is an outstanding, quietly disturbing, exquisitely filmed, brilliantly acted, precisely directed Hitchcock - Chabrol-like drama from the Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev'.
Winner of Un Certain Regard Special Jury Prize Cannes 2011, Elena is gripping cinema with a twist on the classic noir thriller of familial ties, loyalties, the corrupting power of money, class resentment and a coveted inheritance in modern day Moscow. Elena (Nadezhda Markina) is a middle-aged former nurse living in a luxury Moscow apartment with her husband Vladimir (Andrey Smirnov), a retired successful businessman. They met when she cared for him a decade ago when he was recovering from peritonitis. From different walks of Russian society, both have children from previous marriages - Vladimir's wild-child daughter Katya (Elena Lyadova) is childless, has little contact with her father and lives for the moment whilst Elena's son Sergei (Alexei Rozin) despised by Vladimir, is an unemployed wastrel and lives in a run-down black of flats with his wife and two children, the eldest of whom is to be drafted off to Ossetia for army conscription unless the right people can be bribed to get him into university. Vladimir's sudden heart attack whilst swimming triggers an unexpected reunion that threatens Elena's inheritance leading her to hatch a desperate plan.
The hypnotic opening long take of the sun rising on a Moscow apartment as we watch the the main character begin her morning routine leads into a powerful tale of moral and spiritual corruption where money rules and class resentment simmers. Elena is gripping cinema and Mikhail Krichman's exquisite camera work with fixed precisely composed long takes and Anna Mass's editing heighten the tension to give an eerie, bleak and mysterious atmosphere. Underline that with Michael Glass's striking music score ((Symphonie No. 3), Andrey Zvyagintsev's precise direction and actors so good that even with little dialogue you're drawn into their lives and you have an outstanding Russian drama.
The Return, Andrey Zvyagintsev's debut film in 2003 was greeted with critical acclaim with the suggestion that he could the heir to Andrei Tarkovsky. Elena places Zvyagintsev as a major force in world cinema.