Elena (2011 film)

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Elena film.jpg
Festival poster
Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev
Written by Oleg Negin
Andrey Zvyagintsev
Starring Nadezhda Markina
Elena Lyadova
Music by Philip Glass
Cinematography Mikhail Krichman
Distributed by Zeitgeist Films
Release date
  • 21 May 2011 (2011-05-21) (Cannes)
  • 29 September 2011 (2011-09-29) (Russia)
Running time
109 minutes
Country Russia
Language Russian

Elena (Russian: Елена) is a 2011 Russian drama film directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev. It premiered in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival[1][2] where it won the Special Jury Prize.[3]


The film depicts the social and cultural distance between the inhabitants of an exclusive apartment in downtown Moscow and a crumbling khrushchevka in Moscow's industrial suburb. Elena is a woman with a proletarian background who connects these disparate worlds. She met Vladimir, an elderly business tycoon, in a hospital when she was his nurse. Their alliance has been described by a critic as "a morganatic marriage nearly a century after the October Revolution".[4]

Elena's son from a previous marriage is poor and wants money from Vladimir to send his 17-year-old son to university, keeping him out of the compulsory military service. Vladimir makes it clear that he is not going to subsidize Elena's relatives, and informs her that he plans to make a will leaving his wealth to his only daughter from an earlier marriage. Elena poisons him so that he dies intestate and she inherits half his estate.


Jim Hoberman referred to Elena as "the most vivid evocation... of Moscow’s contemporary society". According to Hoberman, "Zvyagintsev has mapped out a world ruled by ingratitude and the absence of justice".[5] Critic Stephen Holden of The New York Times was impressed by Zvyagintsev's "vision of Moscow as a jungle teeming with predatory wildlife" suggesting that "in this quasi-feudal social environment, avarice and blood ties trump all other values".[6] The Village Voice acclaimed Zvyagintsev's "scalpel-like precision dissecting class that recalls Claude Chabrol".[4] "Shoot this film in black and white and cast Barbara Stanwyck as Elena, and you'd have a 1940s classic", Roger Ebert observes.[7]


Nadezhda Markina was also nominated for the Best Performance by an Actress at the European Film Awards[11] and the Asia Pacific Screen Awards.


  1. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Official Selection". Cannes. Archived from the original on 15 May 2011. Retrieved 16 April 2011. 
  2. ^ "Cannes film festival 2011: The full lineup". guardian.co.uk. London. 14 April 2011. Retrieved 16 April 2011. 
  3. ^ Leffler, Rebecca (21 May 2011). "Un Certain Regard Announces Top Prizes (Cannes 2011)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 21 May 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Nick Pinkerton (16 May 2012). "Family Ties that Break and Bind in Elena and The Color Wheel - Page 1 - Movies - New York". Village Voice. Retrieved 3 February 2013. 
  5. ^ J. Hoberman (2012-05-16). "Hoberman: With "Elena," Andrey Zvyagintsev Vividly Exposes the Moscow of Today". Artinfo. Retrieved 2013-02-03. 
  6. ^ Holden, Stephen (15 May 2012). "'Elena,' by Andrei Zvyagintsev, Set In and Around Moscow". The New York Times. 
  7. ^ "Elena :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews". Rogerebert.suntimes.com. 11 July 2012. Retrieved 3 February 2013. 
  8. ^ "Лауреаты премии «Золотой Орел» за 2011 год". Golden Eagle Award. 
  9. ^ "Лауреаты Национальной кинематографической премии «НИКА» за 2011 год.". Nika Award. 
  10. ^ "2011". Russian Guild of Film Critics. 
  11. ^ "European Film Awards: Nominations". European Film Awards. Retrieved 10 November 2011. 

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