The film required a larger budget than it may seem because the filmmakers wanted "Izgnanie" to be "out of time and place" and did their best so the audience would not guess where and when the film took place. Even car plates and signboards were designed specially for the film. The props were bought in Germany, the "town" part of the film was shot in Belgium and northern France, and the "country" part was shot in Moldova. See more »
Zvyagintsev creates a stark, grave allegory of marital and familial disintegration
Andrey Zvyagintsev's "The Banishment" is a stark, grave allegory of marital and familial disintegration. The father, Alexander (Best Actor at Cannes 2007, Konstantin Lavronenko)a slight, lithe, laconic characterfaces an unconscionable choice midway through the film. His wife, Vera (Maria Bonnevie), is a quietly tired mother masking a great deal of uncertainty behind pained eyes and faded beauty. Their young children, Kir and Eva, sense that a storm is brewing. This is Zvyagintsev's despairing poetry on the toxic disconnect between loved ones, surveying the limbo between the way things are and the way it should be.
"I'm pregnant, but it's not yours," Vera says unhurriedly, looking at her husband imploringly, eyes beseeching, as they lounge on the patio of Alexander's hilltop childhood home in the countryside, far away from the bleak greys of the industrial city where they reside. In that moment, Alexander realises the shift from mental to physical infidelity, less mindful to the betrayal he refuses to talk about than he is to his pride taking a dent. For the first time, the angular complexity of Lavronenko's face twists into a wordless rage that reveals his only response to the malaise rising within this marriage.
Alexander meets surreptitiously with his shady brother Mark (Aleksandr Baluyev), a criminal sort that needed stitching up and a bullet removed from his arm in the dead of the night just days before. Mark informs Alexander of a gun he left up in a dresser at their father's home. The moral landscape opens up here with two pathsto forgive or to kill. Both choices demand a hefty price, but remain acceptable as long as one is able to reconcile one's self with it.
Zvyagintsev creates a dreary mood piece, sustained with tension and a deeply burdening excavation of secrets and silence. There's an exploration of miscommunication here, not lies. The unspoken becomes just as virulent as falsities; the emotional estrangement between people becomes a source of dehumanising decay. The story of family is timeless in its essence, but intermittent, it's intrinsic morality however, is everything. Once again, the past has a way of rearing itself into the future. Just as Zvyagintsev saw profundity in the role of the Father in his mesmerising debut, "The Return", he sees the same here in the dynamics between parents and of spouses. The themes remain similar, but the religiosity of his enterprise is clunkier and more obtrusive.
While the acknowledged influence is Andrei Tarkovskynature and pastoral simplicity as it relates to the inner self and the interplay of religious iconographythe resonance of the camera is plainly Zvyagintsev's. The director, once again working with the cinematographer Mikhail Krichman, seems incapable of framing an ugly image: the open spaces of the golden countryside becomes stupefying and the creaky house itself hinges on a chasm, a solitary wooden bridge is the sole connection to a world outside the confines of family. As the narrative bends and folds, so does Zvyagintsev's virtuosity with visual chicaneryimages and shots blend into one another, revealing the webs of space and time.
For all its technical poise, Zvyagintsev's story lacks the emotional veracity of his debut. From each shot, right down to its script, everything is so precisely composed that the film becomes antiseptic beneath the tragedy by justifying its theoretical banality with intense symbolism and inorganic actions. Characters have weight but no realitythey seem becalmed, even unaffectedthey are ideas acted upon, props for a rambling parable and dangerously on the verge of evoking ennui. But in spite of its inherently languorous sermon, Zvyagintsev tackles the film with the cinematic prose of epic literature by enveloping the film with an aura of solemnity and disquiet.
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