Elena 12/07/12 2:17
When Elena goes her to her son's house, the contrast couldn't be greater. It's a cramped, decrepit, Soviet-style flat with a full view of the nuclear power plant next door. Sergey has a wife, a shiftless teenage son, and also a newborn that makes grandmother Elena's face light up. The son wants to know if Vladimir might be able to help his teenager avoid the army by paying his college tuition. Of course Vladimir bristles when Elena brings this up the next day. Why should he have to support her family? She's resentful also of his continued regard for his daughter Katerina, whose complicated and somewhat hostile relationship to her father is revealed in a marvelous hospital scene after Vladimir has had a heart attack.
Helped along by an ominous Philip Glass musical score, Zvyagintsev's film, written by Oleg Negin, takes you by surprise, with the complex implications of this family struggle doubling as a kind of class struggle, and a portrait of the modern Russian predicament. The seemingly placid main character, a housewife with conflicted loyalties, is faced with choices that the audience can sympathize with, even though they have unexpected and unfortunate consequences. At the heart of Elena is a vision of human relationships and society that is disturbing and ultimately chilling. There are some lessons we wish we didn't have to learn.