Izgnanie (The Banishment), 2007
Directed by Andrei Zvyagintsev
Russian with English subtitles, 157 minutes
Andrey Zvyagintsev’s “The Banishment” is a stark, grave allegory of marital and familial disintegration. The father, Alexander (Best Actor at Cannes 2007, Konstantin Lavronenko)—a slight, lithe, laconic character—faces an unconscionable choice midway through the film. His wife, Vera (Maria Bonnevie), is a quietly tired mother masking a great deal of uncertainty behind pained eyes and faded beauty. Their young children, Kir and Eva, sense that a storm is brewing. This is Zvyagintsev’s despairing poetry on the toxic disconnect between loved ones, surveying the limbo between the way things are and the way it should be.
Zvyagintsev creates a dreary mood piece, sustained with tension and a deeply burdening excavation of secrets and silence. There’s an exploration of miscommunication here, not lies. The unspoken becomes just as virulent as falsities; the emotional estrangement between people becomes a source of dehumanising decay. Just as Zvyagintsev saw profundity in the role of the Father in his mesmerising debut, “The Return”, he sees the same here in the dynamics between parents and of spouses. The themes remain similar, but the religiosity of his enterprise is clunkier and more obtrusive.
While the acknowledged influence is Andrei Tarkovsky—nature and pastoral simplicity as it relates to the inner self and the interplay of religious iconography—the resonance of the camera is plainly Zvyagintsev’s. The director, once again working with the cinematographer Mikhail Krichman, seems incapable of framing an ugly image: the open spaces of the golden countryside becomes stupefying and the creaky house itself hinges on a chasm, a solitary wooden bridge is the sole connection to a world outside the confines of family. As the narrative bends and folds, so does Zvyagintsev’s virtuosity with visual chicanery—images and shots blend into one another, revealing the webs of space and time. (imdb)