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THE BANISHMENT

Director: ANDREI ZVYAGINTSEV

RUSSIA • 2007 • SUBTITLED • COLOUR • ANAMORPHIC • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • 156 MIN


WITH ITS SLOW-BURNING EMOTION, RELIGIOUS IMAGERY AND BREATHTAKING LANDSCAPES, RUSSIAN DIRECTOR ANDREI ZVYAGINTSEV’S FOLLOW-UP TO THE RETURN AGAIN ECHOES ANDREI TARKOVSKY’S FILMS.
Although loosely based on The Laughing Matter, a 1953 novel by Californian writer William Saroyan, this moving portrait of a disintegrating marriage has the dark, fatalistic inevitability of a Greek tragedy. Escaping from the cold blue skies of the city, Alex (Konstantin Lavronenko) and his beautiful wife Vera (Swedish actress Marie Bonnevie) take their two young children to his late father’s idyllic country cottage. Here, the sun bathes the rolling hills in a warm orange light. But when Vera tells Alex that she is pregnant, and that the child is not his, her proud, angry husband insists that she have an abortion. Even if forgiveness were possible, would they be banished from their Eden of familial happiness forever? Alex takes their marriage for granted, and does nothing to nurture it; for Vera it is an empty lie built around their profound emotional and spiritual estrangement from one another. Biblical allusions and symbols laden with portent abound. A group of children work on a jigsaw of Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘The Annunciation’; we glimpse Masaccio’s painting of ‘The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden’; a creek that once flowed through the property has dried up. These grand themes are abundantly clear, but the characters’ motivations sometimes remain opaque, despite the fierce naturalistic intensity of the two lead performances. Zvyagintsev’s measured direction, Mikhail Krichman’s painterly cinematography and some judiciously used music — from Arvo Part among others —conjure up a profound, affecting beauty. — Nigel Floyd.

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