The Cannes Film Festival in these times of heightened security risks -- with long queues, uncomfortable frisking and even an evacuation of an auditorium just before an important Competition title was screened on Saturday evening – has not been able to give us gripping cinema. Or just about. In these four days of the Festival, this writer could manage to find just one movie that was both powerful and moving.
An unforgiving image of Russia - Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless - deals with parental selfishness and how it shatters, even destroys, the lives of their children. This is a story that an increasingly self-centred Indian community can easily identify with, given the shooting number of marital rifts and divorces, Loveless is a powerful indictment of an unfeeling society from a helmer who earlier gave us a masterful Leviathan.
A constantly bickering couple on the verge of separating find their 12-year-old son missing - a son they were trying to push on to the other. There is one scene which is heartrending: we see the little boy shutting himself in a room and crying after he hears his parents loudly disagreeing on his custody. This is no case of each wanting to keep the boy, but one where neither wants to have anything to do with him.
Maybe a little too long, the film has a much smaller canvas than Leviathan, but this critic found Loveless much more engaging. Zhenia (Maryana Spivak) and Boris (Alexey Rozin) are fed up of each other. Both want to start a new life, and their son, Alyosha ( Matvei Novikov), seems like a huge obstacle to this. Zhenia has found a new lover, an older but a rich man. Boris has a young girlfriend, who is already pregnant.
Will the new partners be willing to accept Alyosha? In any case, both Zhenia and Boris do not want their son. Unbelievably cruel, but true.
Loveless gets into another track once the boy disappears with the police and a voluntary organisation getting into action without any success. Alyosha’s one good schoolfriend cannot offer any valuable clue. And it is here that one sees a trace of parental anxiety.
One may argue that Loveless does not have much of a plot, though it cannot be run down on predictability. The end was quite a surprise. However, the helmer infuses useful frills in the form of images on television, and they touch upon just about every subject in Russia. At times, these images appear like a parallel track complementing the main narrative.
Cinematographer Mikhail Kritchman captures the mood of the story by shooting it in mid-winter, the icy landscape drawing us into the life of the cold couple. The bareness in their affection towards each other and towards their son reflects on the greyness of the days.
Hopefully the nine-member jury, headed by the Spanish master, Pedro Almodovar, would be moved by the story of the 12-year-old boy – who finds himself abandoned by his own parents in a world that is turning increasingly loveless.
The director has something interesting to say in the form of a note: “I would like to be able to draw parallels between Loveless and Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage, transplanted to a different era and acted out by different characters: urbanites devoid of any real self-awareness or doubt, an average middle- class couple today.”
“Sick of each other after many years of marriage, a man and a woman are going through a divorce. It’s an unremarkable situation... Only, both have new projects. They want to turn the page, begin a new chapter of their lives, with new partners and new emotions that will help them to feel complete and full of promise. Past experience has disheartened them a bit, but they remain confident about the future. All that remains for them to do is to unload the burden that stands between them and happiness: their son, Alyosha, a stranger to both of them, who becomes a rag doll that each throws vindictively into the other’s face”
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering the 70th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, running till May 28)
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