In the midst of the ongoing controversy surrounding the Trump administration’s ties to Russia, it’s easy to equate the whole country under Putin’s rule as one evil enterprise and forget that there are artists like Andrey Zvyagintsev who understand better and address more honestly the plight of human existence than most Trump voter probably ever will.
LOVELESS, Zvyagintsev’s follow-up to his Oscar-nominated morality tale LEVIATHAN, is a hard-hitting drama about an urban Muscovite couple (Boris & Zhenya) and their unwanted child that handily demystifies what detractors of planned parenthood would have you believe: that it’s always a life saved as opposed to three or more lives destroyed by putting a baby in the care of woefully ill-prepared parents.
We had the chance to briefly sit down with Andrey Zvyagintsev, who could very well be looking at Cannes awardage again and possibly return to the Oscar race when all is said and done.
Can you talk about what it’s like to work on a film with such a detestable cast of characters?
I love them all. I feel no disgust or any kind of animosity towards them because these characters allow us to look deep inside our souls with all our hidden fears, problems and challenges. So I love them.
(Spoiler-ish) Eventually you left the fate of the boy open. Do you as the maker of the film have an answer in your mind?
My answer is that it doesn’t matter what happened to the boy, because my main concern is what goes on inside the heart of Zhenya and Boris. When they go to the morgue, that’s when they’re hit with the deepest feelings of despair and repentance about what they’d done. I think it’s Hamlet’s mother who said to him something to the effect of “What you’re looking at is the inside of your soul and all you see is darkness, darkness, and darkness.”
Your last film LEVIATHAN was pretty political in its portrayal of the Russian bureaucracy. LOVELESS seems, at least at first glance, much less of a political film. Was it a conscious decision to stay away from politics this time or perhaps you find LOVELESS to be a political film as well?
There is a political aspect to this film as well, although certainly not as pronounced as in LEVIATHAN. But in LOVELESS I do show the political context, the political climate in which the story takes place, or February 2015 to be precise. We see footage of the war and conflict with the Ukraine towards the end. But generally I’m not someone who sets out to make politically oriented films, at least that’s never been my intention.
We see in the film that not only the protagonists are terrible parents, but Zhenya’s mother also hates her and Boris shows little affection for his new baby as well. Is this loveless state something you picked up in today’s Russia?
Well of course parts of the film are hyperbolized, exaggerated for dramatic effect. As for the problem of the lack of love, of people being distant from one another, it certainly exists in Russia but I think no more than anywhere else.
Zhenya’s mother is a character that symbolizes the continuance of the central mother-child relationship. It’s a scenario that shows you this mother couldn’t have had a different daughter than the one she had and it goes on like that from generation to generation.
Are you a fatalistic and deterministic person?
I will quote someone who said “I’m a pessimist who looks optimistically into the future.“ So… everything will be fine.