Loveless: Interview with Russian Director Zvyagintsev about his Oscar Nominated Film

Loveless world premiered at the 2017 Cannes Film Fest (in competition) to great critical acclaim.

Sony Classics will release the film in February 2018.

Influenced by Bergman

AZ: I would like to be able to draw parallels between Loveless and Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage, transplanted to a different era and acted out by different characters: urbanites devoid of any real self-awareness or doubt, an average middle-class couple today.

Sick of each other after many years of marriage, a man and a woman are going through a divorce. It’s an unremarkable situation, except that both have new projects. They want to turn the page, begin a new chapter of their lives, with new partners and new emotions that will help them to feel complete and full of promise.

Impact of the Past

Past experience has disheartened them a bit, but they remain confident in the future. All that remains for them to do is to offload the burden that stands between them and happiness: their son, Alyosha, a stranger to both of them, who becomes a ragdoll that each of them throws vindictively into the other’s face.

“I’ll change; I won’t repeat the mistakes that led me to this disillusionment; I will begin anew.” These are the thoughts of people who blame others for their fiascos. In the end, the only thing you can really change is yourself. Only then will the world around you glow once more; perhaps only a terrible loss can allow this to happen.

Flow of Information

Our post-modern era is a post-industrial society inundated by a constant flow of information received by individuals with very little interest in other people, as anything else than a means to an end.

Commitment to Others

These days, it’s every man for himself. The only way out of this indifference is to devote oneself to others, even perfect strangers.  In the movie it’s the volunteer search coordinator who combs the town looking for the vanished child, with no promise of reward, as if it was his life’s true purpose. This basic task imbues his every action with meaning. It is the only means of fighting dehumanization and the world’s disarray.

Born in Novosibirsk, Russia, Zvyagintsev graduated from the acting program at the Russian University of Theater Arts (GITIS), in 1990, under the tutelage of Evgeny Lazarev. He then took part in independent theater productions and had a few bit parts in TV shows and movies. In 2000, he made his debut as a director.

In 2003, Zvyagintsev shot his first feature film, The Return, which became one of the cinema sensations of the year. A debut not only for the director but for the majority of the crew as well, it was accepted in the main competition at the Venice Film Festival, and won the top prize, the Golden Lion. It also garnered the award for Best Debut, with the commendation: “a sublime film about love, loss and coming of age.”

His second film, The Banishment, was presented at the 60th Cannes Film Festival, where the lead, Konstantin Lavronenko, became the first Russian actor ever to receive the festival’s award for Best Actor.

The international premiere of Zvyagintsev’s third film, Elena, took place in 2011 at the 64th Cannes Film Festival, where it was awarded the Special Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard program.

In 2013, Leviathan, screened in Official Competition at the 67th Cannes Film Festival and won the award for Best Screenplay. Leviathan also became the first Russian film since 1969 to win a Golden Globe award. It was also nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.