ⓘ Elena (2011 film)

Elena (2011 film)

ⓘ Elena (2011 film)

Elena is a 2011 Russian drama film directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev. It premiered in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival where it won the Special Jury Prize.


1. Plot

The film depicts the social and cultural distance between the inhabitants of an exclusive apartment in downtown Moscow and a crumbling khrushchevka in Moscows industrial suburb. Elena is a woman with a proletarian background who meets Vladimir, an elderly business tycoon, in a hospital when she his nurse. This meeting eventually results in their marriage. Her social position and social rank are substantially increased by the marriage to such a wealthy man.

Elenas son from a previous marriage is poor and wants money from Vladimir to send his 17-year-old son to university, keeping him out of the compulsory military service. Her son and his family live in a crumbling apartment in the industrial suburb. After being approached by Elena, Vladimir makes it clear that he is not going to subsidize Elenas relatives, and informs her that he plans to make emendations to his will, leaving his wealth to his only daughter from an earlier marriage, with some residual monthly payments to be made to Elena. Elena is terrified by the prospects of such a new will and decides to murder him by switching his own medicines with Viagra, which is extremely dangerous in his post-infarct state. When he dies in bed, she then destroys the handwritten version of the new will which he had not yet been able to formalize with his attorney. Following the destruction of these handwritten notes, she then calls officials to find the dead body in bed with her, claiming that she has no idea how and why he died.

The death is found upon medical examination to have been caused by the foolish abuse of medications by Vladimir himself, and the actions of Elena as the culprit are completely overlooked. In the absence of a formal will, he dies intestate and Elena inherits half his estate with the other half going to his only daughter. Elena then takes a substantial amount of money to her son in order to pay for her grandsons education. She is thanked and receives the unexpected news that her sons wife is expecting another child. With Elena keeping her part in Vladimirs death a complete secret from her son, her son then gets his wife to open the liquor cabinet in order for the family to toast their announcement of his wifes pregnancy and the future college career of Elenas grandson. Elenas family then decide to move from their decrepit apartment to Vladimirs wealthy home where Elena became the sole occupant after Vladimirs death, in order to start a new life together with Elena.


2. Cast

  • Nadezhda Markina as Elena
  • Evgeniya Konushkina as Tatyana, Sergeys wife
  • Igor Ogurtsov as Sasha, Sergeys son
  • Elena Lyadova as Katya, Vladimirs daughter
  • Andrey Smirnov as Vladimir
  • Vasiliy Michkov as lawyer
  • Aleksey Rozin as Sergey, Elenas son

3. Reviews

Jim Hoberman referred to Elena as "the most vivid evocation. of Moscow’s contemporary society". According to Hoberman, "Zvyagintsev has mapped out a world ruled by ingratitude and the absence of justice". Critic Stephen Holden of The New York Times was impressed by Zvyagintsevs "vision of Moscow as a jungle teeming with predatory wildlife" suggesting that "in this quasi-feudal social environment, avarice and blood ties trump all other values". The Village Voice acclaimed Zvyagintsevs "scalpel-like precision dissecting class that recalls Claude Chabrol". "Shoot this film in black and white and cast Barbara Stanwyck as Elena, and youd have a 1940s classic", Roger Ebert observes. The relationship between the married couple and their alliance has been described by one critic as "a morganatic marriage nearly a century after the October Revolution".


4. Awards

  • Special Jury Prize of the Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes Film Festival
  • Nadezhda Markina was also nominated for the Best Performance by an Actress at the European Film Awards and the Asia Pacific Screen Awards.
  • Golden Eagle Award for Best Film
  • 2011 Russian Guild of Film Critics Awards – Best Film, Best Director Andrey Zvyagintsev, Best Female Supporting Actor Elena Lyadova.
  • Nadezhda Markina won the IFFI Best Actor Award Female: Silver Peacock Award at the 42nd International Film Festival of India.
  • Nika Award for Best Actress
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