Russian director Andrey Zyvagintsev’s previous film was Leviathan (2014), a film about political corruption in Russia. The dislike of Russia’s Minister of Culture did not preclude the film from being nominated for an Oscar as Best foreign language film. Now, Zvyagintsev is back with a no less damning look at modern Russian society. The first cue we get is from the music of Evgueni Galperine and Sacha Galperine: An insisting, loud piano note is a sign of what to expect from Loveless. Alexey (Matvey Novikov), a 12-year-old boy comes home from school to find his parents fighting again. Boris and Zhenya (Alexey Rozin and Maryana Spivak) are about to divorce just as soon as they sell their house and each can go live with their new partners. In his bedroom, Alexey sobs uncontrollably as he hears his parents arguing about who will have to take care of him. The next morning Zhenya seems more concerned with her Instagram account than with her son. As he goes to school, she is spending the day with her new partner. They make love and she confesses that she had an unhappy childhood. Boris lives with his younger pregnant girlfriend. Zhenya comes home late at night and takes no care to have look in Alexey’s bedroom. It’s only the next morning when the school calls Boris that they realise Alexey is missing. When the police is first contacted, Boris and Zhenya are told that Alexey might be a runaway child and that he may return in a few days. The detective does not seem to have a very positive outlook. But when Alexey does not come back a search is organized in the surrounding woods and abandoned buildings. Zyvagintsev’s view of Russian society and bleak. The news (Vlademir Putin’s controlled media) seems to be on at all times, but is anybody really listening. No, it’s only background noises. Your Twitter or Facebook accounts seems more important than your family. In one telling scene the pregnant girlfriend calls Boris to ask him when is he coming home. Never mind that his son disappeared and that they are searching for him, she wants him home. Outside it’s winter, a bleak, gray winter. Andrey Zyvagintsev’s vision is uncompromising, it is slow-moving. But its passions and commitment are undeniable.
And the Oscar went to… Loveless lost Best foreign language film to the equally deserving A fantastic woman from Chile.
In Russian with English subtitles