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Andrey Zvyagintsev (8 replies and 26 comments)

skiphunt
2 months ago
skiphunt 2 months ago

Is this the director Ethan Cohen mentioned as a contemporary director he's impressed with? Andrey Zvyagintsev

Rossana Signorile
2 months ago
Rossana Signorile 2 months ago

Joel* but I was wondering too, I couldn't understand.

skiphunt
2 months ago

Oops. I thought I'd looked up which Cohen it was before I posted. Thanks.

I think it has to be Andrey Zvyagintsev. That sounds very close to what he said, and he's listed in many top 10 lists of most highly regarded contemporary Russian directors. He's had some award nominations, but his films seem to get luke-warm reviews.

I'm very curious about this, considering he wasn't really all that impressed with Orson Welles.

There are a few of Andrey Zvyagintsev's films on Netflix and one streaming on Prime called Elena that I started last night.

I'm embarrassed to say that I try to avoid films with subtitles. It's not because I find them too tedious to read or anything, but because I like to keep my eyes on the entire frame. If I'm constantly looking down to read the titles, I'm missing nuance in the actor's expressions and subtle changes to the light and framing.

Roger Deakins
2 months ago
Roger Deakins 2 months ago

You must have missed the great majority of films that are worth seeing. Zvyagintsev is in the same league as the great directors: Kon Ichigawa, Kurosawa, Mizoguchi, Melville, Goddard, Bresson, Elim Klimov, Antonioni, Rosellini, Visconti, Fellini, Sadyajit Ray, Rosi, Sergei Eisenstein, Bergman .... but you probably won't have seen their work, unless you are good at languages. Me, I can't even speak English very well, so I am glad of subtitles.

skiphunt
2 months ago

Oh, I've seen MANY subtitled films. I stream them and own many of the Criterion greats on DVD.

It's just that I find I'm missing much of the visual presentation when I'm focussing on the bottom of the screen. It doesn't prevent me from watching them though.

I actually didn't even know your name until this year. I mostly noted directors in the past. UNTIL, I saw the GoldFinch. I remember saying to myself, "Jesus, this film is shot well. Magnificent lighting too." I noted you name and then looked up the rest your work.

Flash forward, I'm listening to all your podcasts now. 1984 is one of my all-time favorite films for cinematography. 1917 is incredible.

I wouldn't be here and wouldn't be hanging on every word in your podcast if I hadn't been absolutely blown away by your masterful work.

skiphunt
2 months ago

By the way, I admit that I've turned on subtitles before even if it's in English. If the characters have very heavy accents, and/or are using slang that I'm not familiar with.

I mentioned this about not favoring subtitles to a film appreciation professor several years ago. He replied similarly, albeit with more snoot. 😉

I explained to him that I just love the visual medium and typically want to try and take in all the different textures, camera movement, lighting, lines in actor's faces, subtle nuance of expression, etc. and that when my eyes are trained on the bottom of the screen reading subtitles... especially if it's a particularly wordy script... I lose some of the visual experience.

Incidentally, just finished Elena by Zvyagintsev last night. Brilliant. Next up, The Banishment. 🙂

Roger Deakins
2 months ago
Roger Deakins 2 months ago

Let us know what you think about 'The Banishment'. I found it somewhat disappointing, though beautiful to look at.

Nikita Ryazanov
2 months ago

Yeah, me too. It certainly looks great, but it is the only Zvyagintsev film I felt bored while watching.

skiphunt
2 months ago

Which is recommended then? I only watched Elena because I saw it was streaming on Amazon Prime. I then noticed that The Banishment is streaming on Kanopy. But, there are a few available on Netflix. Which would be considered Zvyagintsev's top 3?

Nikita Ryazanov
2 months ago

For me: Elena, Loveless, The Return.

skiphunt
2 months ago

Great! Just added Loveless and The Return to my Netflix queue. Thx!

Roger Deakins
2 months ago
Roger Deakins 2 months ago

Yes, but 'Leviathan' is also good. A harder watch, maybe, but very rewarding when you give it time. For me 'Loveless' and 'Elena' are masterpieces.

Nikita Ryazanov
2 months ago

Well, all his films are great. The Banishment is just a little behind the competition. In Russia Leviathan was a huge scandal:)

Mike
2 months ago

Roger,
Why have you labelled those two films as Masterpieces. Perhaps you are a
‘romantic’ at heart and see things differently to others, these films are superb imo when shown in Russian with sub-titles but would they be so exciting if they were speaking ‘English’. I do like the pace and style of these films and especially the way they are shot but I am intrigued why they have been badged as ‘ Masterpieces’.
I am trying to understand what a ‘Masterpiece‘ means to some people.

What ingredients in these films drew you in, did you become totally immersed with its story that you became part of the film.

 

Nikita Ryazanov
2 months ago

I'm sorry for answering question not addressed to me. I just do not understand why you associating immersion into the story with cinema masterpieces.

The more I watch great films, the less I believe that filmmaking is about storytelling.
It's more about communicating your ideas through these moving images and sounds. In this case, story becomes just one of tools in filmmaker's arsenal. A nicely working tool but not more, really.

Cinema, like any other art form, has the power to manipulate human emotions, so you as an author can make people feel what you want them to feel, say what you want to say by connecting certain shots and sound together, you don't necessarily have to connect them logically by creating a narrative.

I know, it probably sounds stupid.

Roger Deakins
2 months ago
Roger Deakins 2 months ago

Yes, it maybe an odd word to use but I would put those films in the same category as 'Solaris', 'Stalker', 'Mirror', 'L'Aventura', 'Army of Shadows', 'The Wild Bunch'.... etc. etc. What would you call them if not masterpieces? For me they are some of the greatest achievements in film making.

Mike
2 months ago

Thankyou Roger.
Masterpiece is perhaps the appropriate word to use as I cannot think of another.
I was trying to establish how some films effect us more than others. Perhaps I am digging too deep here, perhaps the question cannot be answered unless we delve into sanity.

skiphunt
2 months ago
skiphunt 2 months ago

Watched 2/3rds of The Banishment last night. I didn't know it was almost 3hrs long before we started, so saving the last hour for tonight. 

So far, I can enthusiastically say that I am NOT disappointed at all. I love it's near stillness. I don't know how I'd have felt if I watched all 3hrs of it in one sitting though. 

I think one of the reasons I don't mind it's pacing and deliberate stillness, is that it's just so beautiful to look at. It's like watching Andrew Wyeth paintings coming to life and it gives you time to completely absorb the canvass. 

I'm kind of surprised we have another whole hour to go though. Where we had to pause it seemed like it was a fitting end. Curious how much more of this story there is to tell.

If this one is one of his less stellar efforts, I can't wait to watch Loveless.

Nikita Ryazanov
2 months ago

For me, the problem isn't with pace and stilness. I don't know how to say it properly, I just don't feel emotionaly connected to this film, unlike the rest of his filmography.

P.s. Zvyagintsev himself was saying that Andrew Wyeth was an inspiration for the movie.

skiphunt
2 months ago

Oh great! As soon as they arrived at the refuge home... I was thinking Christina's World.

I don't think I should comment any more on it until I've finished it. So far, I've been glued to every image. There's a pensiveness to all of the characters that intrigues me. I can't say that I feel all that connected to any of the characters, but I seldom do. Although, I do sometimes feel connected to the neurosis of Woody Allen characters, ie. the characters he himself plays.

So far, I'm glad I've spent the first couple of hours with this film and am really looking forward to the last hour.

I wonder how much of my lack of connection to the characters has to do with cultural differences? I know that in general people are people all over the world... but there are cultural differences that can create a barrier to a strong connection to characters.

Nikita Ryazanov
2 months ago

I'm russian, so I shouldn't have problems with that 🙂

Nikita Ryazanov
2 months ago

I wanted to say that I barely felt anything while watching it. I wasn't emotionally moved in any way. Maybe, It's just not my theme, I don't know.

skiphunt
2 months ago

I would've guessed you are Russian by your name, but I didn't want to presume.

I've traveled a fair bit in my life, and I mostly find that there really aren't that many different cultural norms that separate us... in general. A few localized things might make one culture feel more "foreign" than another, but most of the everyday basic stuff in life is pretty much the same everywhere.

I've also thought about the mind set of a person when they happen to watch a film, and how that colors their opinion of it.

Also, what their expectations are going in. For The Banishment... based on the less than favorable opinions of it in this thread... my expectation was low. Given that, I was pleasantly surprised.

I've also been aggravated by much of what I've seen lately. Mostly formulaic TV programming that replays the same damn basic storylines over and over again, and just swapping out a few details. It's maddening. I know they're doing it because after something has proven itself, they try to profit off of repeating the same thing over and over again.

We don't end up getting a such a rich selection of artistic expression so much any more. It's all just factory produced to appeal to the lowest common denominators... as well as keeping things as simple as possible in order to more easily translate to other languages and markets.

So, when you do happen to stumble upon something that's truly original, with a unique voice, that's a beautiful artistic expression, and completely unpredictable... it's such a contrast to all of the cranked out tripe that we're served... that it seems like you're witnessing a masterpiece. When in reality, we've simply been starved of real art.

Nikita Ryazanov
2 months ago

My expectations weren't low at all. Don't get me wrong, The Banishment is a very good movie, but I've seen better. That's 100% subjective, of course.

skiphunt
2 months ago

No, I said MY expectations were low based on this thread. So, when I saw how beautiful it is, and how engaged I've been thus far, it was a pleasant surprise.

The rest of that is just speculation on how all our opinions of a given film can be effected by what happens to be going on at the time you're seeing it.

There have been films that I've personally seen while I was in a poor mood and subsequently had a poor impression of the film. Then, saw it again much later... in a better frame of mind, and had a completely different impression of the film.

Nikita Ryazanov
2 months ago

Yeah, I got it. I was speaking about my own expectations, not yours. Sorry for writing it wrong.

Mike
2 months ago

Nikita,
Where did you learn such good English, just interested that’s all.

Nikita Ryazanov
2 months ago

Just regular school, I'm still in the high school.

Mike
2 months ago

Thankyou,
It must be a very good school.

Nikita Ryazanov
2 months ago

No, it isn't actually. Just like any other.

Mike
2 months ago

But you do have a very good English studies teacher,perhaps.

Roger Deakins
2 months ago
Roger Deakins 2 months ago

Yes, that was my problem with the film. The beauty of the film seemed to act as a barrier and I haven't felt that conflict between the visuals and content in the director's other work. Despite that, I did appreciate its technical prowess.

skiphunt
2 months ago

I really appreciate some of the things you've said in your podcast... along the lines of filmmakers doing something purely because it's beautiful or looks stunning... when it doesn't necessarily serve the story. And, at worst can be a distraction.

I know you're not really saying that here with this film, but I get what you're saying. I too feel like the beauty of the images in this distracts a little, but I also feel like the slower pacing allow me to refocus on the characters after the beautiful distraction has waned a bit.

The Byre
2 months ago
The Byre 2 months ago

It's just that I find I'm missing much of the visual presentation when I'm focussing on the bottom of the screen. It doesn't prevent me from watching them though

when my eyes are trained on the bottom of the screen reading subtitles... especially if it's a particularly wordy script... I lose some of the visual experience.

This IMO touches on a profound question in film - how to tell a story.  Perhaps the most important question.  

When I am watching Zvyagintsev's films - and I have only seen three of them so far - I find that I only need to glance occasionally at the subtitles.  He and Kirchman are able to tell the story perfectly well and fully without gobs of yappy dialogue.

Warning - my biased and somewhat OTT opinion - the dialogue is merely the noises actors make when they are not acting.  In the latest podcast, John Lindley speaks of filming the person listening to the dialogue.  If that actor can act, we hardly need to know what the speaker is saying.  It should be clear from the actor listening and registering what is being said.

The story should be visual and be told in pictures (IMO).  When I watch 'Loveless' I can happily ignore the subtitles.  All the key turning points of the film shout at you in images!

Story - I spent most of my working life in Germany and there, all film for copyright (and other) reasons are dubbed into German.  The most prolific dubbing studio is Berlin Synchron and I spent a few days there.  Ouch!

"We can do a sitcom in a day and a film in a week!" said the head of translation to me proudly. 

It is a factory of crap dialogue with every actor sounding as if they are close-miked with a Neumann U87 and in a dubbing suite - which of course they are!

When I was there, the translator watched the film on an editor and spooled back-and-forth until she had any kind of words that vaguely fitted the mouth movements.  She dictated whatever she thought fitted best to a couple of stenographers and a whole movie could be nailed down in less than a day!  My the end of the week, the dialogue was recorded and any Foleys and FX were added if they were not supplied with the film soundtrack.

Berlin Synchron only used a small roster of a few dozen actors used to doing this kind of mass-production.  For that reason, you could watch Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lorne Green and Bruce Willis and hear the same the bass voice of the same actor every time.

Add to that, if they added Foleys (or if the Philistine distributor didn't like the Foleys they got with the movie) they always made then far, far louder than the original.  Every little movement was accompanied by a distracting cacophony of scratching, sniffing, rasping, shuffling noises that were as loud as any words spoken.

It was like watching the film being raped!

Be grateful for subtitles!

skiphunt
2 months ago

I agree for the most part. Although I can certainly appreciate well written character dialogue... much of the time it's completely unnecessary.

Just finished The Banishment last night. LOVED IT!

This is also a fine example of how much can be accomplished with the visuals only. There's not a lot of dialogue in this film.

I was thinking this very same thing a couple weeks ago when I watched Once Upon a Time in the West for the first time.

I was struck by how much was accomplished with almost no dialogue at all in some scenes. And, I decided that if I ever make another attempt at writing a screenplay to shoot... I'm going to commit to doing as much as possible without a single line of dialogue. Only adding dialogue where absolutely necessary, and as sparse as possible.

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