I'm always up for a good foreign thriller, and everything I've heard about this in the past year or so has my anticipation level near its highest point.
Movie Grade: A-
DVD Grade: B+
I’m extremely fond of the so-called “slow burn film.” While they’re certainly not for most of
today’s multiplex-going masses who prefer an explosion every five seconds over a slowly-unwinding story that will
stick with you for days, I’ll take these infinitely more rewarding movies any day. Russian director Andrey
Zvyagintsev’s (The Return, a Golden Globe nominee) 2012 film Elena, is the epitome of a “slow burn film.”
There’s barely any dialogue in the first 10 minutes of the film, and numerous extended sequences take place with
similar periods of quietness. Yet Zvyagintsev says so much by saying so little, allowing us to stay on edge as we
await the next shocking twist that he has in store for us. Thankfully, Zeitgeist Films allows us to experience each
and every minute of this criminally-unseen recent foreign masterpiece, thanks to their wonderful new DVD release.
The title character, Elena (Nadezhda Markina), is one of the more interesting figures to come along in some time.
We are introduced to her as she is performing maid-esque (for much of the first quarter of the film Zvyagintsev had
me convinced that Elena was, indeed, a housekeeper) duties for Vladimir (Andrey Smirnov), an aging man who
doesn’t exactly ooze happiness or even attempt to disguise gruffness with a kind demeanor. Following the subtle
revelation of Elena and Vladimir’s true relationship (one of the many twisty plot points I won’t spoil here), the latter
suffers a heart attack and a series of shocking events are set into motion. Again, that’s all you’re going to hear
from me regarding Zvyagintsev’s brilliant direction of his and co-writer Oleg Negin’s screenplay, but just know, that,
in the end, you’ll be far more fulfilled experiencing Elena in the comfort of your own home than you will be
trudging out to see the latest action-packed snooze fest in 3-D, 4-D, or whatever “D” they’re up to these days.
Zeitgeist’ DVD release of Elena presents the film in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and it is anamorphically
enhanced for widescreen TVs. Everything looks fantastically true to the filmmaker’s vision, including flawless color
rendering, accurate flesh tones, and crisp, detailed images throughout. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is nearly as
impressive, filling the sound field with Phillip Glass’s immersive score, which adds to the noir-ish mood. The Russian
dialogue is always crystal clear and seamlessly integrated into the overall mix. The extras include a 32-minute
interview with director Andrey Zvyagintsev, during which he goes into great deal about Elena, including the
evolution of its story and its direct correlation to modern Russian society. There’s also the film’s U.S. Theatrical
Trailer as well as a two-minute piece that looks at the creation of the movie’s incredible poster by graphic designer
Sam Smith, who uses the moniker “Sam’s Myth.”