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NNarrative Feature Competition

Elena

Elena

Original Title: Elena
Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev
Russia | Russian
2011 | 109min. | Colour
Subtitles: Arabic and English
Format: DCP
15+
A middle-aged woman goes about her morning routine in a luxury apartment, waking a man sleeping in another room and making him breakfast. Not until they speak to each other is it clear that she is not the live-in housekeeper. In fact, Elena (Nadezhda Markina) is the second wife of the wealthy Vladimir (Andrey Smirnov). In this masterfully understated opening sequence, director Andrey Zvyagintsev offers a telling first glimpse of the tension underpinning Elena.

Elena and Vladimir are from distinctly different segments of society, as is reflected in perfectly contrasted scenes of their sorties from home: Elena takes the train to the poorer suburbs to visit her jobless son, while Vladimir drives his luxury car to an upscale gym. When a heart attack prompts Vladimir to consider his will, Elena realizes that his money might go to his daughter from a previous marriage. Facing the prospect of having nothing to support her own son, Elena’s subservience gives way to desperation as she confronts choosing her own family over the man she has married.

Tracing the class divide in contemporary Russia through this uneasy marriage, Zvyagintsev’s third feature is an unsettling exploration of personal and social interactions conducted like murky financial transactions. Outstanding performances ground the film’s larger themes in the affecting struggles of characters who feel true to life –and whose decisions are consequently all the more chilling. A score by Philip Glass accentuates the emotional tenor of the film, which features an excellent script and superb cinematography. With Elena, one of the most critically lauded titles of the year, Zvyagintsev has emerged as one of Russia’s most important contemporary directors, fulfilling the promise of his debut The Return (2003), which took the top prize at the Venice Film Festival.

–Kellen Quinn

Director,  Andrey Zvyagintsev

Director,  Andrey Zvyagintsev

Andrey Zvyagintsev, born in 1964 in Novosibirsk, studied acting at the Novosibirsk Drama School and at Moscow’s Russian University of Theatre Arts. He made his feature debut as a director in 2003 with The Return, which won the Golden Lion in Venice and was hailed as the European Discovery of the Year in 2003. The star of his next film, The Banishment, won Best Actor in the main competition at Cannes in 2007. His subsequent films Elena (2011) and Leviathan also won awards at Cannes.

Cast and Crew

Director
Andrey Zvyagintsev
Cast
Andrey Smirnov, Nadezhda Markina, Elena Lyadova, Alexey Rozin
Production Company
NON-STOP Production
Producer
Alexander Rodnyansky, Sergey Melkumov
Executive Producer
Alexander Rodnyansky, Sergey Melkumov
Screenwriter
Oleg Negin, Andrey Zvyagintsev
Editor
Anna Mass
Cinematographer
Mikhail Krichman
Art Director
Andrey Ponkratov, Maxim Korsakov
Sound
Andrey Derghachev, Stas Krechkov
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