×

‘Loveless’ Producer on Differing Reactions to Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Oscar-Nominated Movie

Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Oscar-nominated film “Loveless” opens in the U.S. on Friday via Sony Pictures Classics. Alexander Rodnyansky, the film’s producer, speaks to Variety about its reception at home in Russia and abroad, and his views on recent developments in the Russian film industry.

“Loveless” was recently nominated for France’s Cesar Awards, adding to its nominations for the Oscars, the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs, the British Independent Film Award, the Independent Spirits, and the European Film Awards. It is the only foreign film in the awards race to have received nominations in all of these contests. It was also awarded the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and best film at the BFI London Film Festival. The film, about a 12-year-old boy who disappears from his Moscow home while his middle-class parents are going through a bitter divorce, has received a positive response from audiences and critics alike, scoring 94% on Rotten Tomatoes and 89% on Metacritic, with Los Angeles Times’ Justin Chang describing it as “a searing, overwhelming film.”

Zvyagintsev and Rodnyansky have just completed a tour of Britain and Ireland ahead of the film’s release in those territories. Rodnyansky remarks on the enthusiastic standing-room only audiences — including many young people — that greeted them. The same was the case in New York, he says, where the director was honored with a mid-career retrospective at MoMA last month.

Rodnyansky is pleased that the crowds on both sides of the Atlantic have wanted to speak about “the art of Zvyagintsev” and the film’s overall theme — the devastating effects of selfishness — rather than focusing specifically on Russia society itself. “They appreciate his talent, his sophisticated cinematic language and his ability to come up with a strong message,” Rodnyansky says. “The story of human selfishness is universal. It is much more than a Russian tale of a couple going through a painful divorce.”

As screenings continue for Oscar voters, Rodnyansky is pleased with the reception from Academy members. Thanks to the Oscar nomination for Zvyagintsev’s last film, “Leviathan,” many of them are already familiar with his cinematic approach. “They understand this is not just about a political statement. It is also an important human statement, expressed through the cinematic language and unique vision of the director,” Rodnyansky says.

The film had its release in Russia straight after its Cannes premiere. This helped avoid the devastating piracy that afflicted “Leviathan,” which had to wait eight months for its home-turf release while the government mulled whether to give it a distribution license.

“Loveless” proved less controversial than “Leviathan,” also produced by Rodnyansky, as was Zvyagintsev’s “Elena.” This was partly a question of timing, Rodnyansky says, as “Leviathan” had come out at a time when Russia’s war with Ukraine had just started and nationalistic fervor was at a high. “Zvyagintsev’s movies are often regarded as being critical [of Russia] because he has a specific way of telling his stories in a very precise contemporary landscape,” he says.

Zvyagintsev is Russian so he, naturally enough, sets his films in Russia, but his stories are universal, albeit “told through the details of the only life he knows – life in Russia.”

Rodnyansky adds: “Because it is set in contemporary Russia many people treat it as a critical depiction of the country. It divides audiences. Some people feel offended, and unfairly criticized. They definitely don’t appreciate a film that they believe shows the country’s bad side.”

He continues: “On the other hand we have some very strong supporters who believe that it is important to tell the truth and tell a story that is able to live on after the film has ended.”

The same selfishness depicted in the film can be seen “all around the world,” Rodnyansky says. “No one needs to know anything about Russia before watching the film. It’s a very understandable story of two people who feel the lack of empathy and the absence of love. It’s about their inability to communicate with each other, and their willingness to pay any price to achieve what they want.”

The film grossed almost $2 million in Russia, released by Sony, and may return to theaters for a second run. It was sold widely in international markets by sales agent Wild Bunch.

Rodnyansky is upbeat about Russian filmmaking in general, noting the strength of local films at the home box office, which nabbed a 25% share last year, led by basketball movie “Three Seconds.” Although he backs the government’s financial support for the production of local films, he is less happy with the protectionist approach of the minister of culture, Vladimir Medinsky, toward movie distribution in Russia. He believes that the banning of “The Death of Stalin” is in contravention of Russian law, and, furthermore, a pointless exercise. “Every Russian knows Stalin was a bloody tyrant. His regime killed millions of Russians and other people living in the former Soviet Union,” he says. “The fact that this movie is laughing [at Stalin’s regime] is the key to understanding the reaction it has provoked.” Rodnyansky is also enraged at Medinsky’s attempt to delay the release of “Paddington 2,” on the pretext of removing competition for Russian films. He says such moves to suppress the box office of non-Russian films will damage the distribution and exhibition sectors in Russia. “The actions of the minister [of culture] have brought instability in the whole business,” he says. “The health of the system is based on competition and the ability of the theatrical chains to decide for themselves which films to put on the screens, not for the minister to decide. I believe Russian movies are able to compete in the market. The audience should have a choice.”

More Film

  • 'The Dirt' Review: A Mötley Crüe

    Film Review: 'The Dirt'

    A long time ago, the words sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll carried a hint of danger. The lifestyle did, too, but I’m talking about the phrase. It used to sound cool (back around the time the word “cool” sounded cool). But sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll has long since passed into the realm [...]

  • James Newton Howard Danny Elfman

    New Trend in Concert Halls: Original Music by Movie Composers — No Film Required

    Movie and TV composers are in greater demand than ever for, surprisingly, new music for the concert hall. For decades, concert commissions for film composers were few and far between. The increasing popularity of John Williams’ film music, and his visibility as conductor of the Boston Pops in the 1980s and ’90s, led to his [...]

  • Idris Elba Netflix 'Turn Up Charlie'

    Idris Elba in Talks to Join Andy Serkis in 'Mouse Guard'

    Idris Elba is in negotiations to join Andy Serkis and Thomas Brodie-Sangster in Fox’s fantasy-action movie “Mouse Guard” with “Maze Runner’s” Wes Ball directing. Fox is planning a live-action movie through performance capture technology employed in the “Planet of the Apes” films, in which Serkis starred as the ape leader Caesar. David Peterson created, wrote, [...]

  • Zac Efron Amanda Seyfried

    Zac Efron, Amanda Seyfried Join Animated Scooby-Doo Film as Fred and Daphne

    Zac Efron has signed on to voice Fred Jones while Amanda Seyfried will voice Daphne Blake in Warner Bros.’ animated Scooby-Doo feature film “Scoob.” It was revealed earlier this month that Will Forte had been set to voice Norville “Shaggy” Rogers, while Gina Rodriguez would be voicing Velma Dinkley. The mystery-solving teens and their talking [...]

  • 'Staff Only' Review: Cultures And Values

    Film Review: 'Staff Only'

    Marta (Elena Andrada) is 17, from Barcelona and alternately bored and mortified to be on a Christmas vacation to Senegal with her estranged dad, Manel (Sergi López), and annoying little brother, Bruno (Ian Samsó). For her, the freedoms of imminent adulthood, such as the occasional poolside mojito, are tantalizing close but still technically forbidden, rather [...]

  • Rocketman

    Candid 'Rocketman' Dares to Show Elton John as 'Vulnerable,' 'Damaged,' 'Ugly'

    Elton John movie “Rocketman” dares to portray the singer’s personality early in his career to have been, at times, “ugly,” Taron Egerton – who plays the pop star – told an audience at London’s Abbey Road Studios Friday, following a screening of 15 minutes of footage from the film. It is a candid portrayal, showing [...]

  • Ben Affleck

    Ben Affleck's Addiction Drama Set for Awards-Season Release

    Warner Bros. has given Ben Affleck’s untitled addiction drama an awards-season-friendly release date of Oct. 18. The film, which has been known previously as “The Has-Been” and “Torrance,” is directed by Gavin O’Connor and stars Affleck as a former basketball player struggling with addiction, which has led to him losing his wife. As part of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content