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Perfect Return to cinema

PUBLISHED: 16:48 13 August 2008 | UPDATED: 17:10 16 August 2010

IN many ways a companion piece to 2004 s brooding The Return, Russian auteur Andrei Zvyagintsev s latest film The Banishment is a visually impressive meditation on betrayal, desire and the gravitational force exerted by blood relat

THE BANISHMENT

Cert 12

IN many ways a companion piece to 2004's brooding The Return, Russian auteur Andrei Zvyagintsev's latest film The Banishment is a visually impressive meditation on betrayal, desire and the gravitational force exerted by blood relations which secures the director's place at the forefront of a new generation of Soviet cinema.

The film opens with a typically enigmatic but masterfully composed shot which immediately lays out the tone of the following two hours and 40 minutes.

Mark (Alexander Baluev) is seen wandering across a windswept landscape with a gunshot wound in his arm. He makes his way towards his stone-faced brother Alex (Konstantin Lavronenko) who helps him to remove the bullet. They exchange few words and no information about how he was shot is given.

Cut to Alex and wife Vera (Maria Bonnevie) taking their son Kir (Maxim Shibaev) and daughter Eva (Katya Kulkina) to the countryside to live in the family's ancestral home.

The house is set in an elaborate estate surrounded by gorgeous rolling countryside and a dense forest, but any hint of newfound family unity is quickly shattered when Vera tells Alex she's pregnant with the child of another man.

Alex seeks his brother's advice and is told he has two choices: kill her or forgive her.

Forgiveness wins out on the condition that Vera has an abortion, but the confession turns out to be the first of a series of startling revelations that propel the three into ruin and downfall. As in The Return the director leaves much unsaid, favouring the use of images over words. The film is littered with - at times - heavy-handed biblical references and the title works as a multi-layered metaphor for the separation between the central couple and the termination of the unborn child. With his second film continuing the line in laconic, slow-burning, visually inventive family drama he started four years earlie, Zvyagintsev has made a clear statement for his future intentions and proved the success of his debut was no one-off.

* The Banishment opens in cinemas on Friday, August 15.

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