Domestic noir from Russia

GRAEME TUCKETT
Last updated 05:00 15/12/2012

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PREVIEW: ELENA

(M) (109 min)

Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev.

Starring Andrey Smirnov, Nadezhda Markina, Elena Lyadova.

Winner of the 2011 Cannes Special Jury Prize, Elena is a dark tale of some very dysfunctional family dynamics being played out against a backdrop of modern-day Moscow. (These days I generally assume that every film out of Russia has a carefully coded political satire underpinning it, and Elena doesn't change my opinion one whit.)

The Elena of the title is a woman in her 60s.  A decade or so earlier, she was the nurse who cared for a wealthy businessman. They are now married, though it is not obvious why. Both of them have adult children from previous marriages. They are all obnoxious to their very marrow.

What transpires is a minutely observed drama that revolves around an intended change of a will. I don't know if anyone has coined the phrase ''domestic noir'', but for Elena they should. Without a wasted moment or shot, and with a gleefully cynical opinion of human behaviour at its heart, this is an intelligent and satisfying film. Recommended.

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