Elena and Vladimir are an older couple, they come from different backgrounds. Vladimir is a wealthy and cold man, Elena comes from a modest milieu and is a docile wife. They have met late in life and each one has children from previous marriages. Elena's son is unemployed, unable to support his own family and he is constantly asking Elena for money. Vladimir's daughter is a careless young woman who has a distant relationship with her father. A heart attack puts Vladimir in hospital, where he realizes that his remaining time is limited. A brief but somehow tender reunion with his daughter leads him to make an important decision: she will be the only heiress of his wealth. Back home he announces it to Elena. Her hopes to financially help her son suddenly vanish. The shy and submissive housewife then comes up with a plan to give her son and grandchildren a real chance in life. Written by
Cannes Film Festival
Andrey Zvyagintsev usually doesn't let his actors read the script before filming but he gave it to Andrey Smirnov when he offered Smirnov the role of Vladimir. At first Smirnov, himself a director, had no intention to act in the film and warned Zvyagintsev during the casting that he couldn't interrupt the editing process of Zhila-byla odna baba (2011), his first film in over 30 years. Zvyagintsev came to Smirnov's place about a month after the casting in order to try to persuade him to star and Smirnov said it was out of the question as he was too busy editing his film, but his wife and son, who were at home too, lashed out at Smirnov, saying he couldn't refuse an offer from a director like Zvyagintsev. The latter promised to adjust the filming schedule for Smirnov. In the end, Smirnov filmed his role when he had days off in April 2010 and managed to devote two weeks to filming in May. See more »
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.
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.
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