Zvyagintsev produced a gripping, modern twist on the classic noir thriller with his third feature Elena which scooped the director the Special Jury Prize at Cannes in 2011.
Elena (Nadezhda Markina) is a middle-aged former nurse from a poor background who appears to have struck it lucky. After marrying Vladimir (Andrey Smirnov), a wealthy patient whom she previously cared for, she now lives with him in his luxury apartment tending to him conscientiously. The problem with this happy and workable arrangement is that each spouse detests the other's grownup child from a previous marriage. Vladimir's daughter Katya (Elena Lyadova) is a spoilt party animal who sneers at her indulgent dad; Elena's son Sergei (Alexei Rozin) is a feckless waster who keeps producing kids and thinks of his mum's marriage as his meal ticket. But when a sudden illness and an unexpected reunion threaten the dutiful housewife’s potential inheritance, Elena must hatch a desperate plan….
Who is Elena? What does she want? Who does she love? These are just some of the questions that bubble away throughout this subtly stylish exploration of crime, punishment and human nature. Masterfully crafted and featuring an evocative, Hitchcockian soundtrack by composer Philip Glass, Zvyagintsev’s deeply satisfying third feature constantly surprises and simmers with tension.