26 November 2017
“The ease with how one can put into words the story of Loveless provides a striking contrast with the sinking feeling it gives the viewer as it ends.”
As a masters film student at University of Sussex and editor of Lilok Pelikula website, Richard Bolisay provides his unique viewpoint on some of our CINECITY 2017 selections.
Director: Andrei Zvyagintsev
Writers: Andrei Zvyagintsev, Oleg Negin
Loveless is about a couple, Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) and Boris (Aleksey Rozin), whose constant bickering and contempt for one another have led them to divorce. A big thorn on their side is they are forced to communicate for the sake of their 12-year-old son, Alyosha (Matvey Novikov), a lonesome kid obviously affected by his parents’ incessant fights. Outside their toxic relationship, Zhenya and Boris have found more loving companions for themselves. But when Alyosha goes missing, and a police investigation turns out unhelpful, they have to suffer being together and look for him, and his disappearance speaks about their irresponsibility as parents as much as the cruelty, and uncertainty, of the larger society they live in.
One can easily imagine how this narrative plays out, but Zvyagintsev, in his characteristic visual style and pacing, and in his insistence on bringing heft to every frame and composition, does not let his audience get away without the emotional pain and the moral immensity and the spiritual mystery that have come to distinguish his works. While Loveless tackles accessible themes of family and marriage and their eventual dissolution, they are rendered sparingly, with pieces revealed in tense moments. As the story unfolds, it feels as though what is being investigated is no longer the missing boy but the missing sense of selves of the characters, or the kindness so seldom felt.
The cinematography of Mikhail Krichman, with whom Zvyagintsev has collaborated in all his films, is assured but never intimidating: his impeccably composed frames — even when it is merely a shot of a bedroom with a couple making love, or a rundown building in the woods defenceless in its decay and deterioration — work as visual poetry that allows the film to convey its critique of Russia’s self-centred privileged class.
Seeping through this beautiful exterior is the bleakness, a dread so pervasive that it tends to suffocate. Loveless is unapologetically cold, humourless, and plaintive, and one wonders: What for? Zvyagintsev, whether deliberate or not, always turns his films into parables, and from them what at first seems to be a simple story becomes complex: humanly, morally, spiritually. In its hypnotic longueurs, Loveless does not give answers nor hope. Yet its gloomy and persisting vision uplifts. —Richard Bolisay
You can read Richard’s first review for us, Let the Sunshine In.
Richard Bolisay is currently doing his masters in film studies at University of Sussex.
You can follow Richard on Twitter.