Andrey Zvyagintsey is an award-winning Russian filmmaker, whose films include Elena (2011) and Leviathan (2014). His latest film Loveless won the Jury Prize in Cannes in 2017 and is nominated for a BAFTA for Best Foreign Language Film. A stark meditation on social, political and parental ideals, it follows estranged couple Boris (Aleksey Rozin) and Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) as they must put aside their differences when their young son goes missing.
ASFF: What was your inspiration for the story of Loveless?
AZ: For two or three years, I’ve been dreaming of getting into this territory of a complicated relationship between a man and a woman, a complicated stage of marriage which happened after ten or twelve years, which is like a time of crisis. I have been looking for a suitable story, then came across this organisation called Live and Alert which searches for missing children and that was the moment when these two stories came together because the missing child just made the whole situation even more dramatic and it even triggered the whole story.
ASFF: Would you call it a private story or a social issue?
AZ: I believe that this story reflects not just Russian society but our society as a whole and it’s applicable to all countries in the world.
ASFF: What did you make of the Live and Alert organisation?
AZ: I would say they are modern-day heroes because they sacrificed their free time and they do not get any money, they do it for the people they have never seen. They are the only positive characters in this film.
ASFF: How do you work with your actors?
AZ: For six or eight months, we searched for actors and we had auditions. For the auditions, I met the actors, rehearsed the key scenes in the movie. Even though I may have a different actor playing the lead role in the end, I already had the sketch of what I want to see in this particular scene or how I want the actor to act so we do not have this theatrical rehearsal. We rehearsed already on set. The shooting day is twelve to fourteen hours and we make as a result one or one-and-a-half minutes of the film.
ASFF: How is the situation of Russian filmmaking? Is it difficult to get funded?
AZ: I think that the films that have some kind of propaganda in them progress very easily and get a lot of funding from the government because there are certain fears that we try to avoid speaking of, like painful topics such as politics. But the industry in the whole is doing fine; its function is working as always. The last couple of years have been very difficult to the so-called auteur cinema because it was very hard to find government funding. I have spoken to many different directors who say it was quite difficult to obtain this money, not just for films about political views but in general auteur films.
Loveless opens in cinemas on 9 February. For more details click here.
1. Trailer for Loveless. Courtesy of Vimeo.