The nightly news keeps us painfully aware of what Russian President Vladimir Putin is up to, and we’ve had it up to here with reports of corrupt Russian businessmen savaging the nation’s economy. But the impression we get of Russians at large seems to be one of a national shrug, as if the people are used to being played for patsies by oligarchs, as they were by the Communists before them and the Czars before them.
Writer/director Andrey Zvyaginstev is clearly all shrugged out. His relentlessly depressing yet endlessly provocative film—the Oscar-nominated Loveless—paints 21st Century Russia as a culture caught in a cycle of destructive self-interest, doomed to re-live its mistakes and pay a heavy price for doing so.
On its surface, Loveless follows a bitterly feuding soon-to-be-divorced couple, Zhenya and Boris (Maryana Spivak and Aleksey Rozin) who are so consumed by hatred for each other (and burning lust for their lovers) that they fail to notice that their young son Alyosha (Matvey Novikov) has been missing for an entire day. But the pair’s circular pursuit of the immediate at the expense of what really matters is for Zvyaginstev a microcosm of the relentless cycles of self-destruction that consume not only people, but also nations.
In Zvyaginstev’s Russia, every level of the culture is driven by repetitive, perhaps addictive, behaviors. The subway is a tableau of bowed heads, all eyes glued to smart phone screens, forefingers mindlessly scrolling from one post to the next. At Boris’ soul-sucking office, the cafeteria workers always know exactly what he’ll be having for lunch that day—and the boss routinely fires all employees who offend his Puritanical worldview, even though the cycles of human nature dictate he’ll be sacking people until the Second Coming.
Some characters seem to wallow in self-destructive cycles. In a particularly nightmarish scene, a visit with Zhenya’s truly abominable mother (Natalya Potapova) immediately devolves into (FULL REVIEW)
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