2 April 2008

THE BANISHMENT (Dir. Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2007, Russia) - Reimagining The Work of Andrei Tarkovsky

'The Banishment' is Russian film maker Andrey Zvyagintsev's follow up to his multi award winning and devestating first feature, 'The Return'. The Banishment is a deeply cryptic and allegorical film that left me baffled about what it is exactly trying to tell us about modern life. However, the real pleasure of this film rests with one of the most masterful and beautifully framed mise en scene's I have come across - the images and moods Zvyagintsev manages to create and express are remarkably linked to our understanding of nature and it's intensity as a landscape which is both mysterious and deeply allusive. Zvyagintsev's camerawork is meticulous and profoundly compelling - his shots of industrial and countryside landscapes are detailed, metaphorical and should I say Tarkovsky like in their beauty. Very few film makers know how to utilise the potential of the widescreen frame and each of Zvyagintsev's compositions are individually breathtaking - take for example the opening of the film which begins with a bold image of a tree on a baren landscape, a car appears in the distance and it slowly makes it way towards us on a dirt road; the light which radiates from the frame in this sequence and throughout the film is exceptionally lucid, making the mise en scene appear very tangible - this is a film about experiencing the textures of life and those sentiments come across vividly through the multi layered and dense cinematography. The Banishment gets more confusing as the narrative unfolds and the film in no way depends upon a plot or real story as such. This film is a staggering technical achievement - it is in my opinion one of the most beautiful films in terms of graphic design, use of lighting and general mise en scene manipulation I have come across since David Fincher's masterpiece Zodiac. Zvyagintsev has shown great promise with his first two films and like Alexandr Soukrov has emerged as an important figure within contemporary Russian cinema.

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