Elena zigzags around the world

One of the most important and powerful Russian films of the decade – the award-winning psychological drama Elena – is to be screened at a festival renowned for showcasing world cinema in Toronto.

­“Toronto International Film Festival is a very important event, first and foremost for American film industry as it traditionally goes with a large film market. Now, the festival’s Contemporary World Cinema strand features the most important films made outside the US and Canada. Taking part in this prestigious program will enormously help distribute Elena in North America,” the film’s producer Aleksandr Rodnyansky was quoted as saying.

According to Rodnyansky, foreign distributors have expressed interest in the film which is to be released in France in January. Agreements have already been reached to show Elena in America, Israel, Switzerland and Greece, among other countries.

Earlier this year, Elena received a Special Jury Award at the world’s most prestigious film festival, Cannes, and three top awards at the oldest and largest festival in South Africa, the Durban International Film Festival.

Set in modern-day Moscow, the film from the creator of The Return, Andrey Zvyagintsev, relates to fears and morals, sense and sensibility, crime and punishment in the 21st century.

“Our time is breathing with crime, screaming about it. The only difference is that in the mid-19th century and even later on in the 20th, during the time of humanism, there was crime but then there was also punishment,” Zvyagintsev told RT after the film’s premiere at Cannes.

Elena is not Zvyagintsev’s plain answer to Dostoevsky – rather, it is a deep and intricate analysis of modern society.

The movie focuses on a middle-aged couple, Elena and Vladimir, who come from different walks of life. He is a wealthy businessman; she a former medical worker, now an ordinary housewife. Each has children from previous marriages. Elena’s son is “permanently unemployed”, with a wife and two children living off  donations from Elena’s modest pension, and handouts from her rich husband. Vladimir’s daughter Katya is no angel either – even her own father sees her as a hedonist seeking nothing but pleasure.

Having met quite late in life, Elena and Vladimir appear to share little in common. Nothing can smooth away their social differences – differences which are fraught with conflict, and conflict eventually leads to drama.

After Toronto, Elena is set to be screened in the Abu-Dhabi film festival and will then move to Goa to be part of the International Film Festival of India where Zvyagintsev will be among the jury.

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