Loveless (2017), by Andrey Zvyagintsev
Directed by the Russian filmmaker Andrey Zvyagintsev, Loveless portrays the disruptive relationship between a middle-class couple, Boris (Alexey Rozin) and Zhenya (Maryana Spivak), who have in divorce the only way out. They still have a common link, their son, Alyosha (Matvey Novikov). Named for the Academy’s Best Foreign Film in 2018, Zvyagintsev had already made a name for himself in 2014 with the masterpiece Leviathan.
This is a devastating movie. The dialogues between the two protagonists reveal their marriage’s decadence, where aggressions are constant.
However, the most shocking thing about Loveless is the way their 12-year-old son is disposable in the eyes of two egocentric beings who just want to move on (both have new partners, where love is nothing but mirage), so Alyosha is the only obstacle in the future idealized by both. They deny his existence.
Alyosha’s suffering is deeply distressing, facing his parents’ arguments who engage in a perfidious clash. The camera, at a certain point, focuses Alyosha locked in the bathroom, crying compulsively, listening to his parents violently arguing. A scene that crushes, suffocates us, with no place for redemption.
When Alyosha disappears, an odyssey begins to try to find him. Police prove to be ineffective, a recurring theme in the director’s work, with searches being led by a group of volunteers focused on missing children. Despite this group’s keenness, the searches prove fruitless.
The parents’ behaviour is completely subversive. Zhania’s tears are just signs of her selfishness, focused on herself and her failure as a mother. She felt nothing with her son’s disappearance.
The cinematography is extraordinary, subtly captured in a Russia deeply scarred by the Cold War, still hostage of a deceptive totalitarian regime. The successive planes with dark images, filmed under Zvyagintsev’s perceptive gaze, intensifies the narrative and reinforces the increasing individualism in an era on the brink of social collapse.
Zvyagintsev, through his critical perspective, warns about the danger of an autist society, absolutely inert to those who should be protected by it.
This is a story that takes us to a vicious reality, showing how Humanity failed to preserve its values, in a total absence of feelings when confronted with human’s frailty. Loveless is proof of Societies’ failure.
Loveless almost makes us feel exhausted. A stifling drama from the beginning to the end. We don’t know if Alyosha is found. We only know that Alyosha is a mere, invisible objective. A killing indifference.
Zvyagintsev authentically films the narrative, portraying human nature as it is. Nothing is artificial here. With a frightening crudity, Loveless is the reflection of a troubled world that survives between cyclical swings… a punch in the stomach.