Film

Cleaning House in the New Russia with 'Elena'

Cleaning house in the new Russia.


Elena

Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev
Cast: Nadezhda Markina, Andrey Smirnov
Distributor: Zeitgeist
Rated: Not rated.
Year: 2012
US Release Date: 2012-10-30

Dostoyevsky meets Patricia Highsmith in Elena, a study of malaise in modern Russia that takes its sweet time building into a tale of crime and existential punishment. It compares and contrasts the rich and poor, and men and women. Elena (Nadezdha Markina) and Vladimir (Andrey Smirnov) live in a separate but unequal marriage in a fabulous apartment. He's a wealthy businessman (we can only speculate on what that means), while she's the nurse he met after a heart attack several years ago. In many ways, she's still his nurse. In both his apartment and the cramped shoebox where her son lives with his wife and children, the paterfamilias sits around waiting for women to attend on them.

Vladimir despises this lazy, jobless son of Elena's, so he wouldn't countenance any comparison between them. He also resents any comparison with his own spoiled "hedonist" daughter, who's lazy because she can afford it. The movie implies that no matter which class the parents belong to and how hard they've worked, their offspring are unworthy of them. In Russian movies, the hardworking mother typically symbolizes Russia (deliberately or not), while the man symbolizes its troubled history as determined by leaders, soldiers, and now the nouveau riche. Here, it must finally be the woman who takes action, fearful as she is of both economic and spiritual payback.

The fiercely scrutinized on-screen behavior rests on concrete details, like the difference between public transportation or the luxury of taking a cab, or driving your own restlessly stereo-drenched car through a street of workers. At any moment of held breath, one of two ominous sounds ratchets up on the soundtrack: passages from Philip Glass' 3rd Symphony, or the omnipresent caw of crows, those traditional birds of death. The film has more than one variety of crow ready to swoop in for the pickings in this austere, mournful, ironic portrait. DVD extras are a director interview and, unusually, a piece about designing the poster.

8

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Music

Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.

Music

IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.

Music

Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.

Film

NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.

Music

The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.

Books

David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.