When Alex moves his wife Vera and two chidlren from the city to the countryside, they are confronted with an idyllic Eden of breathtaking nature and rolling hills. However, this picture of paradise will be shattered when Vera reveals to Alex she is pregnant with a child that is not his. Violence erupts when Alex is faced with a moral choice - to forgive Vera and live down his humiliation or to punish her with the help of his mob brother.
This humble reviewer confesses that he isn’t the most intelligent around (at least when compared to his fellow columnists here), so he’d probably need to watch this Russian film a few more times to understand the filmmaker’s intended messages. Well, he’d probably never fully understand the themes portrayed in the film, but even if he could get the gist of it, he would be satisfied. You see, this film is directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev, who stunned him with the intensely absorbing The Return (2003). His second full length feature warranties repeated viewing to gain different insights on the story. Yes, even if it means repeated viewings of the film which has a runtime of 150 minutes.
Based on William Saroyan’s book “The Laughing Matter”, this film adaptation is definitely no laughing matter. The story tells of a man who returns to the place where he spent his childhood after learning that the baby in his pregnant wife’s stomach isn’t his. Deep dark secrets are hidden from each other, in fear of a furious outbreak of emotions. But the more these secrets are hidden, the more dangerous the undercurrents run.
The film is not your usual dramatic affair where issues are resolved and attended to at the end of the day. This is one heavy viewing experience which may turn off the casual audience. Running deep within the film’s heavy handed plot is a I\a story about how lonely we are, a story of how we do not fully understand the ones we claim to love, and a story of how have difficult relationships with fellow human beings.
The powerful cinematography will leave you breathless – the sparse landscapes, the towering silhouettes of the tall trees, the forlorn reflections in the rain puddles and many other memorable well composed shots are examples which illustrate how intelligent Zvyagintsev is as a visual storyteller. These images complement the deep messages he wants to portray in his film, and the good thing about this medium is, different interpretations can be given by different people, on different viewings. There is probably no right or wrong when it comes to this, especially with each individual’s background knowledge of issues and experiences.
What is certainly right about the gripping production is Konstantin Lavronenko’s enthralling portrayal of the man who is distressed in his quest to find answers to some dumbfounding life questions. His mesmerizing and riveting performance won his the Best Actor accolade at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. With one expression, the actor (who also gave a spellbinding performance in the director’s debut feature as a mysterious father who returns to give his two sons a lesson they’d never forget) could tell a million stories free for interpretation. And that probably means, each time this reviewer feels compelled to play this DVD to get some insights on a emotionally heavy day, he’d take away a different message.
Ah, such is the power of film.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
This Code 3 DVD only contains Teaser and Theatrical Trailers of the film.
The disc’s visual transfer makes the moody cinematography look good, and is presented in its original Russian soundtrack.
by John Li