The Banishment (Izgnanie) (2007)

Yesterday I saw another contemporary Russian movie by Andrei Zvyagintsev, with Konstantin Lavronenko who won Best Actor at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival for his role.


A man, Alexander, leaves the city with his wife Vera and two kids, Kir and Eva,to go to the country, to his paternal house. The old house is opened up to bring back life and fresh air to it, as they take in the tranquility and openness of the countryside.

But this tranquility is broken when Vera tells him something that sets into motion events that cannot be reversed.


Beautiful movie. But you really need to watch it till the end, otherwise you will not get it. You could say, as my boyfriend pointed out, that the film has 3 parts. And without the 3rd part, the movie would not be as interesting if it had finished after part 2 (which could have been possible actually).

I refer to my earlier post The Return (Vozvrashcheniye) (2003)for the previous movie by Zvyagintsev, in which Lavronenko also stars.


The Return (Vozvrashcheniye) (2003)

The Return is a Russian movie by Andrei Zvyagintsev, about two brothers, who live with their mother and only know their father from an old photograph. He has come back and is taking them for a 2 day fishing trip. Only it doesn’t turn out that way. During the several phone calls he made during the road trip, he gets one that obligates him to take on a mysterious job for 3 days on some island. At first, he puts the boys on a bus on their way home, but he changes his mind and takes them with him anyway.

The relationship between the boys and the father is not a good one. After several years of absence, that comes as no surprise. He is very harsh with them, especially with the youngest, Ivan, who is more defiant and reluctant in following his father than his brother Andrey is.

It is clear that the two boys see the return of the father differently. They seek his approval, Andrey especially by doing what his father tells him, to show he’s a man. And though in some way Ivan does as well, he is weary of the reason of the return. Because why is the man so hard on them? He is tough and harsh and expects that his sons treat him with the respect of a father, while to Ivan, he is just a man who suddenly says he’s their father.

The defiance of Ivan, especially by manipulating his brother to be disobedient to their father when he puts Andrey in charge while they go off fishing, results in a culminating power struggle of the mind between Ivan and his father. Ivan, though wanting to be a man, reacts like the boy he in fact really is and this leads to a dramatic event.

A very enjoyable movie. Love the camera on this one, the images, and the story (even though it is quite dramatic). Even the music really gives weight to the whole picture.

Only I found out 2 eerie things after reading some info on Wikipedia: well for one, that the director also had a “return” of his absent father when he was 6. I don’t know if the movie is entirely autobiographical (hope not). The second thing is that the young actor who played the eldest son Andrey, Vladimir Garin, drowned not long after shooting ended, in a lake near where the movie’s ending was shot. Gave me goose bumps that one.

You can find a trailer below. It is dubbed in English. I saw the movie in Russian with subtitling. Unfortunately, I did not find any to post here. It was either English or Russian, but none subtitled.

Brussels Film Festival 2009

It’s that time of the year again: festivals are lining up. And not just music ones but movie ones as well.

The Brussels Film Festival is around the corner, and even though I do not know much on the programme, I will have 9 days of festival to take a chance to get to know them.
International movies galore, competitions, awards … the thing is almost in place for almost 60 avant-premières to watch. I would much like to attend the open air screening, that will be held outdoors (and that the weather will be on it’s best as well). Cause I’m so very curious how it will be like.
Wat is fun is that every night, a country is of the honour. So 9 days, 9 countries to dig into?
Last year I only went to see 1 movie, from Russia, called Nirvana. I posted on this and last years festival here. I really liked that movie (though some people left the theatre, still to my amazement). I do hope to be delighted and introduced to something new like that this time.
For people interested in Belgian movies, theres are the once who had their debut this year (also available on the website):
So let’s keep an eye on the website (if you are in Brussels, near Brussels and are able to go). The jury hasn’t been announced yet, but I doubt if I know anyone… not that familiar with international film scene (as I’d like to).

zzz zzz zzerkalo (1975)

Yesterday I did something that’s so terrible. I dozed off during a movie by apparently a very great movie maker, Tarkovsky: Zerkalo or The Mirror

But in my defence: I was tired after a hard day’s work. And secondly, that was the most confusing, surrealistic, instant set changing, why the hell does the actress who plays the mother also playing the daughter-in-law, confusing movie.

I was so ashamed that I couldn’t keep my eyes open! What didn’t help is that the narrator voice of the main character, was in a monotonous Russian. It soothed me right to dreamland. Cause if you don’t understand the words (when dozing off, you don’t read the subtitling, you see), the sounds are very invitingly sleep inducing.

I will have to watch the movie again, because it is not done. Maybe, once I know what is ahead of me, I’ll be more ready for the sudden weird story lines. Cause the shots were beautifully done. Just the story made no sense to me what so ever.

Gladly, I wasn’t the only one afterwards that was left with a “huh?” sensation.

Mother and son (1997) and Shadows in paradise (1986)

These past couple of weeks, I’ve had the impression of having a whole new world of genres opening up to me. In film I mean. I have noticed, as I have been told just two days ago, that whatever country the movie is made, there are some enjoyable things out there.

Tonight I have seen the beginning of “Daredevil” (which disappointed me with its too long intro into the story and the stiff, unappealing acting by Ben Affleck – why I only watched the beginning) and yesterday I saw “Shaft“. These are just … flicks. Is that the word? Purely entertainment, fast action stuff.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen many genres and am not against them at all. (I still believe Serenity should have gotten more exposure than it got.) But I’m talking about something else… for me, film is like opening up into a new world, a snapshot of a moment, witnessing. And in the following movies I got that sense.

The Russian movie “Mat i syn” (1997)(“Mother and son”), as a whole, it was not my cup of tea. The pace of the movie was something I had difficulty with. To me this movie had no beginning nor an end. You are immediately taken into the moment. The story about a mother who is dying and a very devoted son who takes care of her. Living in a harsh environment, isolated. Though in the background you hear the passing of trains, and you see ships on the far horizon from the shore. It is almost as if the son is shown possibilities to escape his cage-less prison, but he cannot leave his duty to her behind.

The imagery was flawless. The shot positions sometimes even remarkable. But these things did not make me be a whole-hearted fan of the movie. It had it merits, but did not win me over completely. What it showed me was that this Russian movie was made like a precious gem, even though everything was minimal: the music, only 2 actors, many outdoor shots and only 1 set. But it worked.

Then I saw this Finnish movie called “Varjoja paratiisissa” (1986) (“Shadows in paradise”). It was the kind of movie unlike any other I saw. It tells the story about a garbage man, Nikander (former butcher), who hasn’t got much, isn’t that much to look at and when he sees too many bottoms of glasses can give hell to anyone denying him another drink. He just saw his prospect to move up in life, die with the death of his colleague, who offered him a new job.

Nikander fancies the supermarket girl, Ilona (drifting from job to job) and asks her out to a date that ends in disaster. (His idea of a date being bingo?) But when Ilona gets the sack and has nowhere to stay, she uses his good will. Both lonely, they end up together, but Ilona isn’t that bothered by it all…

What struck me with this movie, was that the characters where very… how to put it… not that bothered with anything. With almost expressionless faces. But the story was bittersweet; focussed on the underclass, loneliness and isolation from society (like when they want to celebrate Ilona’s new job in a fancy restaurant and aren’t allowed in). But then the quirky and distant characters could express some pretty witty and funny remarks, which came as a surprise at times and gave the movie its charm.

Love was a strange thing here. And only very little you saw a smile on a face, which you would expect from lovers. But then again, Nikander and Ilona are plain, working-class, having tough lives and living with little prospects. You wouldn’t smile either.

I’m glad to find out that there are more things still to discover. That different countries have their finesse. And that even though you don’t understand the language (and have to have subtitles), you still get that universal feel from what you see and sense from the screen.

Nirvana (2008)

Yesterday I saw a movie called Nirvana at the Brussels Film Festival. It was one of the last screenings and might be up for a public choice award. Which it deserves. But that depends. There were people who left during the viewing. I don’t know why. They read the synopsis in the festival brochure, didn’t they? So they knew what they were up for… apparently not.

It’s a Russian film directed by Igor Voloshin. With Olga Sutulova, Marya Shalaeva, Artur Smolyaninov, Mikhail Evlanov, Andrey Khabarov, Dmitry Itskovich, Vladimir Sorokalita, Tatyana Samoylova.

Alisa, a nurse or doctor (I didn’t get that entirely, but she was a nurse at least), is bored of her life in Moscow and chooses to move to Saint Petersburg. She finds herself an appartment, a very filthy and shady one, which she has to share with a junkie couple: Valera (also called Dead Man for some reason) and his girlfriend Vel, who’s a bartender.

Pretty soon, Alisa and Dead Man take comfort with each other while Vel works late night shifts. I’ll go to the point: they are sleeping together. When Vel finds out, she sets out to teach the new nurse a lesson and sends some tough guy to teach it to her. But Alisa is not a girl who just lets that happen, she defends herself. Upset and angry, in return she reports Vel to the police. (Why precisely, I have forgotten). Vel is so angry when she gets out of the police station that she rushes home to physically assault that damn girl who sleeps with her guy and reported her to the police.
So you can imagine how toxic the envirment is in that appartment from then on.

But one night, while Dead Man is appartently cheating out of house for a change, Vel takes some badly cut drugs and Alisa has to rush in to save the girls life. From then on, they grow closer and start leaning about each other. About the background they shared in Moscow, during their childhood in the Soviet time.

When Dead Man still doesn’t come home, it becomes a bit worrysome. Especially when Vel receives a package with one of his fingers in it. It seems that Dead Man ran into deep depts to get his drugs and now they want him to pay. Seeing he can’t, his girlfriend Vel is supposed to do it. Together with Alisa, they go off to collect $10 000 to get him back in almost one piece.

The pace of the movie is very variated. Some scenes are hand-camera filmed and a bit out of focus, moves a lot. Other scenes are steady and long. It’s almosed like a video clip at times. They played with some interesting scene cuts. Sometimes you almost get a déjà vu like feeling when they cut sometimes a second before an action and then back to just before, so you get a feeling of clear voyant images.

I liked the fact they experiented with the costumes and make-up. Although some over the top, it worked with the settings and it gave it a timeless feel. You could not pinpoint when the story played out. It seems contemporary, but has some punk looks as well. And it gave it an edge. Like something unseen before.

For me, the edgyness and rawness was what made me kick. The characters, especially Vel, were inviting and interesting. I recommend this. Are you up for it?