Thursday, May 01, 2014

2014 Cannes Check #2: Andrey Zvyagintsev

AndreyZvganistev (андрей звягинцев) is in Cannes for the third time as he won the Un Certain Regard Special Jury Prize in 2011 with his film Elena and was also in competition with his awesome film Izgnanie (The Banishment) in 2007 -male lead won best actor-, four years after his also amazing Vozvrashchenie (The Return) won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2003. Seems like a short Cannes history but he has only three (3) feature films and all are highly honored in festivals all over the world; his fourth feature film, Leviathan, premieres in competition in this year Cannes.

Born February 6th, 1964 in Novosibirsk (Russia) he is perhaps a less-known director and actor with only nine (9) films in his filmography and more than half (5) are short films. In my opinion his first two feature films, The Return and The Banishment (both have reviews here) are extraordinary for the use of images, color, compositions and very unusual storytelling style told in slowish to slow pace; his third film Elena is different, looking/feeling more contemporary cinema which was a bit disappointing for me. Perhaps because his two first films are set in the past while Elena is set in the "new Russia" is why his style becomes more raw-ish realism and has much less visual poetry.

Have seen a few stills from his latest movie, Leviathan and seems that could have stunning visuals but story is set in the present, still this time is not a big city setting so perhaps he has more freedom to visually exploit its surroundings and the following image tells me that maybe I am right. If you have not seen his previous films I strongly suggest to immerse into his early work to feast your senses.

If Leviathan has an "intriguing" narrative then perhaps the mix of style and form could please some jury members as some of the directors indeed work with similar styles to his Elena. His career is just starting and wonder if is his time to win Cannes top award, maybe not but would not be surprised if he gets other awards.

Then maybe this film could go back to his roots as according to producer Alexander Rodnyansky

"A unique film for Andrei, Leviathan has his trademark visual style and narrative but it is also breathtakingly beautiful. Leviathan, is a modern retelling of the Biblical story of Job and it is populated with amazing intricately developed characters that we can easily feel empathy for. It deals with some of the most important social issues of contemporary Russia while never becoming an artist’s sermon or a public statement, it is a story of love and tragedy experienced by ordinary people and both stories are universal and will be appreciated by people around the world".

The film was shot in the northern town of Kirovsk on the Kola Peninsula near Murmansk and according to the few stills that have been released, scenes seem truly breathtaking. Another remarkable difference from his previous films is that Leviathan has lots of characters (15).

If you wish to learn more about the director please visit his official site here. Yes he is the one that has arguably been called as Tarkovsky's "successor".

Basic Info about Левиафан Leviathan (Leviafan)
Director: Andrey Zvganistev
Scriptwriter: Andrey Zvganistev and Oleg Negin
Language: Russian
Runtime: 141 minutes
Production countries: Russia
Production companies: Non Stop Production
Starring: Elena Lyadova (The Banishment and Elena).

Plot Summary
Kolia lives in a small town near the Barents Sea, in North Russia. He has his own auto-repair shop. His shop stands right next to the house where he lives with Lilya, his young wife, and his son from a previous marriage, Romka. Vadim Sergeyich, the Mayor of the town, wants to take away his business, his house and his land. First he tries buying off Kolia but Kolia cannot stand losing everything he has, not only the land, but also all the beauty that has surrounded him from the day of his birth. So Vadim Sergeyich starts being more aggressive.

Film will be a drama gradually transforming into tragedy. The script begins as a social drama, a relationship drama, a drama of human insecurity in the new country. Also the story itself is tied to the present day; it is rooted in the familiar pain of reality.

A movie still.

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