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“The Banishment” by Andrey Zvyagintsev

It has been four years since Andrey Zvyagintsev was honoured with the Golden Lion at the Venice Festival for his first film, The Return. His second film, The Banishment, screening in Competition brings the Russian director to Cannes for the first time. This drama was more or less adapted from the novel by William Saroyan, The Laughing Matter, which tells of how a birth can upset an entire family. The director chose to work with the same “father” as seen in The Return, Konstantin Lavronenko.

Questioned about the critical success of his first film, which received awards from around the world, and the pressure on him to produce as much in his second offering, The Banishment, the director related, “The syndrome of the second film is a myth that needs to be dispelled. Vindication can only come from your work, from the film, because the film itself is the goal and not a means of proving something.”

 

Press conference 

 

As part of the presentation in Competition of the feature  The Banishment, a panel of members of the film crew met journalists to answer questions and give different perspectives on the film. Director Andrei Zvyagintsev was accompanied by actors Konstantin Lavronenko and Maria Bonnevie, as well as producer Dimitri Lesnevski. Highlights follow:

Andrei Zvyagintsev describing Maria Bonnevie:  "Maria is extraordinary, a magical actress. I discovered her when I saw the film Dina, in which she played opposite Gérard Depardieu. I have never been able to forget the face I saw on the screen."

Maria Bonnevie on her part in this film: "It was one of my most difficult roles. I was supposed to speak Russian, a language I do not know. But I was coached by a translator, Kristina, who has since become a friend. In addition to that, I was supposed to contain all my emotions, keep them inside as much as possible. In many respects, this part was a challenge, but it was a pleasure to meet it."

Andrei Zvyagintsev on the film's relationship to reality: "In filmmaking, reality is so present that it is difficult to be detached from it. But you have to succeed in doing so to reach another, higher level of reality. When you are directing a film, you have to create a world, and make the invisible visible, which is an exceedingly complex task."

Andrei Zvyagintsev on the contrast between the film's formal beauty and its dark subject: "This contrast doesn't trouble me at all. Above all, the film is a recreated reality, almost dreamlike. For me, a dream has to be beautiful, whole, and harmonious."

Andrei Zvyagintsev on filmmakers who influenced him: "The Sacrifice is my favorite film. People often ask me if Tarkovsky was an influence on my filmmaking. If his films did have any influence on me, it was not in a conscious way. I also like Antonioni."

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