|One of the posters to the film.|
When Vladimir has a stroke, he not only refuses Elena’s repeated pleas to help her son but begins to make out a will which effectively sidelines Elena and empowers his estranged daughter from his first marriage. Although it is not made explicitly clear whether or not Elena genuinely loves Vladimir, she realises that having given ten years of her life to effectively look after Vladimir, she cannot simply allow the daughter to inherit everything. Vladimir’s objections to offer financial support for Elena’s son stems from a class snobbery that is vindictive, cruel and representative of the way in which the rich will do anything to protect and preserve the status quo. Elena’s decision to accelerate the death of Vladimir not only ensures her of a share of the inheritance but transforms her into a radical political entity. Elena’s heinous actions might be cataclysmic in terms of morality but Zvyagintsev’s ending in which we find Elena and her son’s family occupying the apartment as their own suggests that murder can also be a strangely revolutionary act because in this case it brings with it the promise and perhaps even fulfilment of social mobility. Why social mobility? Mainly because it was the defining characteristic of a functioning capitalist society in which class could be attained if someone worked hard enough. Social mobility has been erased today, replaced by an inexplicable economic divide that has produced an antagonistic class conflict in which a tiny elitist minority reigns supreme while the underclass continues to grow unhealthily into yet another social problem as touted by the mainstream media. If this is true then why does Zvyagintsev opt to depict the underclass in the film as equally unsympathetic as the rich? Upon occupying the apartment, Zvyagintsev trains his camera on the reaction of Elena’s apathetic son who reiterates his zombified position of the fixated armchair television spectator, underlining social mobility as an aspiration has now been taken over by the numbing diversions of a one dimensional media circus. With Elena, director Andrei Zvyagintsev certainly demonstrates he has considerable range and is not afraid of remaining apolitical. In my opinion, Zvyagintsev is one of the best filmmakers at work today in the world. If you don't believe me, just watch any of his films; they are mesmerising.