By Mónica Delgado

As in his previous Works, Andrei Zvyagintsev proposes a new moral allegory to speak about the social crisis in current Russia, but this time, he does so from the devastated core of a middle class home going through a divorce process. If in Leviathan the fight against corruption was impeded of being banished because of the different criteria of the Orthodox Church in a small conservative town, or if in Elena, a mother offered herself in sacrifice to protect his alcoholic son in a vicious circle of money and other transactions, in Loveless Zvyagintsev chooses a child as an expiatory goat of a society in decadence, reflected here in the institution of family, broken and enemy of solidarity and emotion.

Also as in his previous works, Zvyagintsev chooses to begin and to end his film in the same space (or with a same premise): the woods in winter (filmed in a splendid way), woods with powerful trees and a bucolic climate, a physical allegory of the moral, social and political allegory that is established through the disappearance of a twelve year old child, an emotional pariah, whose parents are barely involved in his search process. The filmmaker describes the rarefied nature of these two ambivalent characters, between hysteria and inactivity, showing them as apathetic, dry, and centered in showing the vices of this “bad” parents in a world “without love”.

But for Zvyagintsev, this loveless world is ruled by the disinterest of a mother towards her small child who is abandoned without love, and that shows the mother as a supreme image of a woman inside a society already alienated that lost the leadership of that motherhood that used to do everything for their kids. Is Mother (Russia) –there’s even a scene where this idea is way too frontal- leaving aside the realest of loves: the one of the children (but also of those born in the same country). In doing that, the filmmaker draws a film that questions the absence of this type of filial love in current times. Today Russia isn’t the mother that welcomes the immolation of a son like in Sokurov’s film, neither is the same Elena that one day gave life in another film, even less is the Pudovkin’s “mother”. Zvyagintsev’s mother is a loveless character, without any memories. There’s no room for filial love of any type.

And it’s this gaze that “feminizes” the responsibility of the crisis of a country, the thing that impoverishes Loveless somehow. The mother isn’t only the cold women who has lost a child, she also embodies a bigger paradigm which is reinforced by different characters and extras throughout the film (prostitutes, drunk teenagers, an indifferent teacher):  all women are losing something that used to identify them as pillars of society.

Set in the period previous to the conflicts with Ukraine, Loveless is set to reflect in its ambition not only a family portrait, but the social degradation of a country, having as historical references the consequences of the ex USSR, where the ruins of bunkers and other abandoned places built in a socialist regime could have being used to shelter this emotional orphans that flee due to a family disinterest. On other side, there’s an intuitive relation with Tarkovsky’s Ivan’s Childhood, where a boy also becomes an orphan but inside a war and in a country in ruins. This modern Ivan called Alexei in Zvyagintsev’s film suffers the same traumas, though this one doesn’t share anymore the will to confront his reality but only the desire of silently disappearing.

Filmmaker: Andrei Zvyagintsev
Script: Oleg Negin
Music: Andrey Dergachev
Cinematography: Mikhail Krichman
Producer: Arte France Cinéma / Why Not Productions
Russia, 2017