Elena (2011)

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Released 7-Nov-2012

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Interviews-Crew-Director Andrey Zvyagintsev
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Palace Films Collection x 4
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2011
Running Time 104:51 (Case: 109)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Andrey Zvyagintsev
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Nadezhda Markina
Andrey Smirnov
Elena Lyadova
Aleksey Rozin
Evgeniya Konushkina
Igor Ogurtsov
Case Alpha-Transparent
RPI ? Music Philip Glass


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English (Burned In) Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

†††† Some years ago I watched and enjoyed The Return (2003), the assured first feature by director Andrey Zvyagintsev. That film was about family relationships and was an intelligent and hypnotic story of a journey untaken by two sons and their father, a man they didnít know. So I was keen to take a look at Elena, Zvyagintsevís latest film which examines similar themes.

†††† Vladimir (Andrey Smirnov) and Elena (Nadezhda Markina) are a mature couple who married late in life. Vladimir is a wealthy man and they live in a modern, well-appointed apartment in Moscow. Both have children by previous marriages: Elenaís son Sergei (Aleksey Rozin) is an unemployed slacker who lives with his wife Tanya (Evgeniya Konushkina), their 17 year old son Sasha (Igor Ogurtsov) and a baby in a tiny flat in a run-down Soviet era apartment block in the industrial suburbs. Vladimir is estranged from his daughter Katya (Elena Lyadova) mainly due to her hedonistic lifestyle.

†††† Sergei unashamedly takes money from his mother to support his family and does nothing to find a job. Sasha is due to be drafted into the army and has poor grades so cannot get into college instead. Under pressure from Sergei, Elena, who is blind to her sonís lack of initiative and dependence upon the money she supplies, asks Vladimir for the money to keep Sasha out of the army, but Vladimir does not see why he should support Elenaís sonís family when Sergei makes no effort to support himself! When Vladimir suffers a heart attack at the gym and ends up in hospital, Katya comes to see him and the two reconcile. Because of the heart attack, Vladimir believes he needs to get his affairs in order and decides to make a new will: Katya will inherit his money except for a generous monthly allowance to be paid to Elena. At this point Elena decides to take matters into her own hands.

†††† Elena starts off quietly and slowly. The camera lingers on the outside of an apartment, then moves inside as Elena gets out of bed, gets dressed and prepares a breakfast. For eight minutes there is no music and no dialogue, the only sounds the natural sounds of birds on the tree outside the apartment, the distant traffic, footsteps on the wooden floors or the TV. This sets the tone for the entire film, which is a deliberately paced, meditative and, above all, an examination of family relationships with natural, believable acting from the entire cast. Nadezhda Markina is especially good. Her Elena is a docile, servile woman to the men around her who says very little, yet we can clearly follow her indecision and pain in her body language and her eyes.

†††† This natural acting is supported by an audio track that uses silences and natural sounds as well as the occasional TV broadcast. Elena is a film of many long silences and for most of the film there is no music at all; indeed it only occurs briefly on four occasions, including at the end of the film and with the closing titles. On all occasions, the music, by Philip Glass, occurs in connection with a journey, and is so loud after the silences and lack of music it is very noticeable.

†††† Elena is a beautifully written, reflective film. The pace may be slow and deliberate, but the real horror in what is happening on screen is because the people and world created by Zvyagintsev is so real, the situations initially so normal and every day. This means that as the film moves towards its climax it is the more chilling because what has gone before is so believable and normal. This could indeed be real life, a fact reinforced by the open ended conclusion, a conclusion that suits some of the characters much more than others.

†††† Elena is high quality cinema, compelling, beautifully written and acted. It is a film for anyone interested in world cinema.

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Transfer Quality

Video

†††† Elena is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original theatrical ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

†††† This is a nice sharp print with good detail. Colours are deep and natural, blacks and shadow detail fine. Brightness, contrast and skin tones are consistent and natural.

†††† Other than some ghosting with movement in front of mottled backgrounds I did not notice any film or film to video artefacts.

†††† Burnt in English subtitles are in a clear white font and are easy to read. I noticed no spelling or grammatical errors.

†††† This is a good print that does the job very well.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

†††† Audio is a Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 track at 448 Kbps.

†††† As noted in the review, this is an unusual audio track of many silences and little music. Dialogue was clear and centred and although the rears and surround were not overused, the sound design was quite good, with, for example, doors, cars, birds and trains in the surrounds as well as ambient sound. Due to its sparse nature, these natural sounds were very effective when they did occur. The sub-woofer was little used; I really only noticed it adding bass to the music at the end and during the closing titles.

†††† Lip synchronisation is fine.

†††† The music was by American composer Philip Glass, basically his Symphony No 3 which, as noted, was used sparingly.

†††† A natural and very effective audio track, perfectly suiting the natural feel of the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Interview with Andrey Zvyagintsev (32:44)

†††† Filmed in 2011, this is mainly the director talking with some film footage. While Elena is the focus of the interview, this is more about Zvyagintsevís attitudes, techniques and working methods than a dissection of the film. He talks about writing the screenplay, including changing the ending, constructing the opening shots of the film, the use of silences in the narrative, shooting on a soundstage and constructing the set. Zvyagintsev also adds comments about Russian society. Certainly worth a look.

Theatrical Trailer (1:44)

More From Palace Films

†††† Trailers for King of Devilís Island (2:20), Goodbye First Love (1:54), Declaration of War (1:34) and How I Ended This Summer (2:27).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

†††† The Region 1 US NTSC version of the film includes the interview with the director, the trailer and adds a two minute featurette on the making of the filmís poster. The Region 2 UK version will be released on 11 February 2013. I have no details of extras.

†††† I doubt the extra short featurette in Region 1 is of more value that the increased PAL resolution of Region 4. Buy local.

Summary

†††† Elena from Russian writer / director Andrey Zvyagintsev, is a beautifully written, meditative examination of family relationships in modern day Moscow with natural, believable acting and an interesting audio track. It is a compelling film for anyone interested in quality world cinema.

†††† The video and audio are excellent, the interview with the director a worthwhile extra.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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