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Elena and Vladimir are an older couple, they come from different backgrounds. Vladimir is a wealthy and cold man, Elena comes from a modest milieu and is a docile wife. They have met late in life and each one has children from previous marriages. Elena's son is unemployed, unable to support his own family and he is constantly asking Elena for money. Vladimir's daughter is a careless young woman who has a distant relationship with her father. A heart attack puts Vladimir in hospital, where he realizes that his remaining time is limited. A brief but somehow tender reunion with his daughter leads him to make an important decision: she will be the only heiress of his wealth. Back home he announces it to Elena.
For more about Elena and the Elena Blu-ray release, see the Elena Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on March 19, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Nadezhda Markina, Andrey Smirnov, Aleksey Rozin, Elena Lyadova
Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev
» See full cast & crew
Elena Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, March 19, 2013
Winner of Un Certain Regard - Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, Russian director Andrei Zvyagintsev's "Elena" (2011) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors New Wave Films. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original theatrical trailer and a video interview with the Russian director. In Russian, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
The film is set in modern-day Russia, but the story it tells is about two very different worlds and the people that live in them. One is bright and clean, populated with wealthy people who live in beautiful buildings and drive expensive cars. The other is dark and gloomy, overcrowded with poor, disillusioned and often desperate people who live in old Soviet-style buildings.
Elena (Nadezhda Markina, In the Fog), a retired nurse, spends most of her time in the bright and clean world. She shares an ultra-modern apartment in the heart of the city with Vladimir (Andrey Smirnov), a successful businessman. They have been together for years, but still sleep in different bedrooms, and have their own bathrooms. Each morning they have breakfast together. This is the time when they discuss important matters and occasionally talk about the future. Elena and Vladimir, each with a child from a previous marriage, are officially married, but at the end of each month he pays her for cleaning the apartment and making sure that their fridge is never empty.
Elena also visits the other world, where her son and his family reside. He is unemployed but isn't looking for a job. Elena understands why – it isn't easy to find a good job in a country with a broken economy. This is why she gives him her pension and most of her salary. Each time she visits her son, Elena also brings groceries for which she pays with her credit card.
Elena's pension and her salary, however, are enough to pay for her grandson's education. And this is bad news, because if he does not go to the local university, he must join the army. It is the law.
Determined to keep her grandson away from the army, Elena eventually asks Vladimir for assistance. But he refuses to help, and instead warns Elena to stop giving money to her son so that he is finally forced to look for a job and start providing for his family like other men his age do. Shortly after, Vladimir becomes seriously ill and announces that he is planning to leave all of his money to his free-spirited daughter. Realizing that she is running out of time, Elena makes a desperate move to help her son's family.
Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev's third feature film, Elena, tiptoes the fine line that separates neo-noir and social critique. Viewers unfamiliar with Russia's transformation in recent years will likely conclude that the film is closer to the former. Viewers that have visited the country and seen the devastating impact the liberalization of the local economy has had on ordinary people will likely conclude that it is closer to the latter.
The message of the film is this: In modern Russia, everyone's sense of what is right and wrong has been erased. In the two worlds Elena visits there are people who constantly judge each other despite the fact that they never meet. They don't feel the need to. Their worlds are so far apart and their priorities so different that they don't want to communicate because it would be a waste of time. This very awkward polarization of the country has created a dangerous vacuum in which ordinary people, like Elena, can be forced to do some very bad things, the type of things criminals do.
The atmosphere in Elena is very similar to that in Zvyagintsev's second film, The Banishment. There is a misleading peacefulness, a faux sense of security throughout most of the film that effectively tricks the mind.
Markina is excellent as the loving mother who faces a very difficult dilemma. Smirnov also impresses as the wealthy businessman who isn't willing to compromise.
Elena Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Andrei Zvyagintsev's Elena arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors New Wave Films.
From start to finish the film looks very crisp and sharp. There is a wide range of very well saturated cool colors. The outdoor footage, in particular, looks fantastic - depth and fluidity are simply superb (see screencapture #5). There are no traces of problematic lab tinkering. When projected, the film also remains very tight around the edges. There is some extremely light banding that I noticed during a short sequence early into the film, but its presence is far from distracting. There are no serious purely transfer-specific anomalies to report in this review. To sum it all up, Elena looks quite impressive on Blu-ray. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Elena Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two standard audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: Russian DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Russian LPCM 2.0. For the record, New Wave Films have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they appear inside the image frame.
The film is complimented by a beautiful score by award-winning composer Philip Glass (The Qatsi Trilogy). Thankfully, the lossless 5.1 track allows the strings to shine in all the right places. Surround movement is limited, but there are important sounds and noises that are exceptionally well defined. The dialog is crisp, always stable, and very easy to follow.
Elena Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Elena Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
If Andrei Tarkovsky was still alive and directing films today, I believe that many of them would have looked like the films of Andrei Zvyagintsev. They would have probably tackled very similar themes as well. Elena, Zvyagintsev's third feature film, is elegantly shot and impressively acted. It is his most intimate film to date, offering a fascinating glimpse at a polarized society where everyone's sense of what is right and wrong appears to have been erased. New Wave Films' technical presentation of Elena is excellent. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Elena Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Elena Blu-ray (Updated) - January 17, 2013
Independent British distributors New Wave Films have revealed that they are planning to bring to Blu-ray Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev's (The Return, The Banishment) Elena (2011), starring Nadezhda Markina, Andrey Smirnov and Aleksey Rozin. The preliminary ...
Elena Blu-ray, Forum Discussions
Elena Blu-ray Screenshots
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