Elena – Just Deserts

This is my review of Elena [DVD].

After such a slow start that I began to wonder if the projection had jammed, this proves to be an absorbing character study of a second marriage between Vladimir, a wealthy sexist pensioner and Elena, his former nurse, now a useful housewife and occasional bedmate. In this unequal relationship, Elena seems at first resigned to her dull yet comfortable routine, but we begin to see the quiet subversiveness with which she uses her credit card to provide food for her waster of a son, his long-suffering wife and children who live crammed into a grim concrete block of flats. Although aware of her son’s flaws, she does not see why his children should suffer, when Vladimir’s own wayward daughter is indulged through an accident of birth. Perhaps we see here a residue of the Communist ethos surviving in a fractured modern Russia where the less able languish in poverty whilst the successful live on a par with the most prosperous parts of the capitalist west. Certainly, the camera lingers on shots of both smart inner city streets and the sordid subways leading to rubbish-strewn wasteland round giant cooling towers cheek-by-jowl with high rise slums.

The film builds to quite a tense and absorbing drama, but disappointed me by an inconclusive and perhaps intentionally amoral ending which could have been more poignant, disturbing, surprising, ironical according to the turn of events chosen.

I believe that this film started off in the west on an apocalpytic theme, but was modified away from this when transferred to Russia, perhaps retaining a nihilist aspect. A little too long with a few superfluous scenes – such as the shot of a nurse stripping a bed or perhaps I missed the point – this is a visually striking, psychologically quite subtle film with an ending which I suspect will divide opinion.

⭐⭐⭐ 3 Stars

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