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What’s on at the Russian Film Festival?

September 2, 2011

Last night I was honoured to be introduced by Nicholas Maksymow, Director of Russian Resurrection, as the “Godfather” of the Russian Film Festival in Australia. I helped support them eight years ago, and some of the best films I’ve seen have been at its festivals.

Last night’s Elena, directed by Andrei Zviagintsev, lived up to this reputation. There are long, slow defining shots that introduce us to life in a wealthy person’s apartment – I presumed in Moscow – where Vladimir, a well off older man lives with his wife, Elena, a nurse he met two years ago. He has a daughter from a precious marriage, she a son. She visits the son, in a decrepit apartment block; the son’s a chain-smoking, unshaven, beer-swilling mess, who squeezes his mother endlessly for money. And he needs the money to bribe officials so that his son – her grandson – is not conscripted for the army (the Russian army seriously mistreats its recruits).Vladimir suffers a heart attack at the gym, and recovering tells Elena that he is making out his will and she will only receive a monthly annuity with the bulk of his wealth going to his daughter.

This is an unrelentingly grim view of a heartless modern Russia.

The music in the movie is by Philip Glass.

With directors Armen Adilhanyan and Konstantin Buslov

See below for my review of Brest Fortress, Alexander Kott’s recreation of the heroic Red Army defence of the Brest Fortress against the Nazis in June 1941.

Other outstanding films were To Live, Yuri Bikov’s account of a middle-aged city man suddenly swept up in a battle for survival with gangsters in the countryside; Who Am I?, Klim Shipenko’s mystery about a young man and a lost identity set in and around Yalta; and Stoker, set in St Petersburg in the mid 90s about a shell-shocked Afghan war hero looking after the furnaces in a building into which the local gangs dump bodies of slaughtered enemies.

With Russian Consul Peter Schyukin

It was an honour opening the Festival, welcoming Konstantin Buslov and Armen Adilkhanyan, the directors of Loot and Kukaracha respectively, along with Peter Schyukin the Russian Consul in Sydney.

I congratulated Nicolas Maksymow for making the Russian Film Festival in all Australian capitals see for their programs.

One Comment
  1. September 5, 2011 7:03 pm

    I had the pleasure of seeing Elena at the Melbourne International Film Festival a month ago. It definitely is a superb film.

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