Friday, 18 February 2011

Andrey Zvyagintsev: The Banishment - Изгнание (2007)

Directed by Andrei Zvyagintsev.
Starring Maria Bonnevie, Aleksandr Baluev, Konstantin Lavronenko

When 39-year-old Andrey Zvyagintsev arrived in Venice for the Festival in August 2003 he was almost completely unknown even in his native Russia. But the three half-hour films he had directed for the REN-TV series The Black Room in 2001 had so impressed Dmitry Lesnevsky, the series producer and general director of REN-TV, that Lesnevsky had encouraged him to make his first feature, The Return (2003), the film he was now bringing to Venice.

A week later this dark, enigmatic film had won not only the prize for best debut feature, but also the Golden Lion itself, eclipsing the achievement of Zvyagintsev's great Russian namesake, Andrei Tarkovsky, whose first feature Ivan's Childhood (Ivanovo detstvo) had shared the Golden Lion in 1962. Despitea Russian tendency to look askance at artists whose fame is first achieved abroad, The Return later won the two main Russian film prizes for 2003, the Nike and the Golden Eagle. In 2004 the film was distributed around the world gathering praise and prizes inequal measure.

Naturally there was great interest in what Zvyagintsev would do next but he made his admirers wait. The Banishment,an adaptation of The Laughing Matter, a little-known 1953 novella by the Armenian-American writer William Saroyan, did not surface until the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. The film's length and stately pace divided critics and the film won 'only' the Best Actor Prize for Konstantin Lavronenko who was cast, as he was in The Return, as a troubled hero. It has taken over a year for the film to get a British release.

BFI Sight & Sound Film of the Month

Andrei Zvyagintsev interview. The Russian director talks to Rebecca Davies about his second film, The Banishment

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