Russian Film Director Awarded Grand Prix at Venice Film Festival

Golden LionThe 60th jubilee Venice Film Festival has closed with a world-class sensation, unprecedented in the history of cinema. The movie "The Return,"("Vozvrashcheniye"), produced by first-time director Andrei Zvyagintsev, won festival's top prize, the Golden Lion. It also won the second Golden Lion for the best debut feature.

Italian press enthusiastically commented on the event as "the appearance of another Andrei Tarkovski in Russia." The refined audience gathered in the Venice Festival Movie Hall after the showing applauded for long fifteen minutes, obviously expressing confidence that this particular Russian movie is going to be a winner.

The sensation has even greater impact when we realize that "another Tarkovski" is a former theater actor from Novosibirsk, a wanderer whose professional life took a wrong turn, and who started to direct movies only three years ago. TV channel RenTV producer Dmitri Lesnevski gave him a chance to work in movie business. Acting on a hunch, he offered a novice director to film three short episodes for detective series "Black Room." At present, RenTV is the most trendy, although not the most popular, TV channel in Russia. Its elegant design, well-considered program of popular movie showings, and its own informational intonation full of humor and irony have made the channel an "elite retreat" for talented youth and Russian intellectuals. In addition, RenTV has its own well-developed program of documentary research and the best computerized studio for experimental TV in Moscow.

The channel is headed by Irina and Dmitri Lesnevski, mother and son. The secret of RenTV's successful competition with such informational monsters as Channel One and RTV lies in the fact that the Lesnevski family has put the stakes on search for novelty and young talents. They also emphasize the quality of production. In other words, they are not afraid of taking risks.

Only on RenTV series are filmed as if they were elite movies, with the use of all necessary means. The channel is literally "crazy" about the quality. Only on RenTV actor Andrei Zvyagintsev's secret passion for directing high-quality feature movies has been noticed.

So, once upon a time, Andrei received an offer to become TV producer. Among the short TV series filmed by novice director, "Busido," where the violent dispute between Russian criminals suddenly became a philosophical tale about duty and honor, was the best. Besides, the series were filmed with an amazing feeling for beauty and stood out with their magical rhythm. Mr. Zvyagintsev purposefully filmed a rather insignificant episode of the series as an art-house version of superior class movie.

Believing in his talent, the Lesnevski have taken a huge financial risk when they offered Andrei to shoot real feature film. And the risk has turned into a phenomenal success of the movie "The Return." Even before the victory at the Venice Film Festival, three class A film festivals - in Toronto, Montreal and Locarno included the movie in their contest programs. Italy and the United States have already bought showing rights for the movie. It is indeed an unprecedented event in the history of cinema, taking into consideration the fact that the movie has not yet appeared on Russian screen.

Those who were lucky to watch the movie, mention the amazing hypnotic quality of filming and an enchanting magic of the rhythm. The movie literally casts a spell over the audience, making viewers follow closely the development of a trivial family drama. A father, who disappeared from home for 10 years, suddenly returns to his two teenage sons and takes them to an island on a lake, where the boys grow up.

Initially, Mr. Zvyagintsev drew the entire movie, frame by frame, on paper, and followed strictly his drawings during filming, demanding an ideal realization of each depicted scene. Andrei Zvyagintsev put an enormous effort in the search for two teenage actors, insisting that they must be geniuses (his own words), otherwise the filming would not have sense. Finally two extremely talented boys have been found. In such a way, the novice director showed his rigorous approach, constantly pushing the demands for professionalism and quality to the limit. It is not surprising that Andrei Tarkovski is one of his idols. The latter also used to bring his filming crew to exhaustion, demanding only impossible. By the way, Tarkovski's first movie "Ivan's Childhood" also won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1962.

And here is another triumph - the Russian debutante has won the race against such masters of world cinema as Japanese filmmaker Takeshi Kitano (Silver Lion for his directing of "Zatoichi") and legendary German filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta (her actress Katja Riemann received the best female role award in the movie "Rosenstrasse").

Nevertheless, the triumph of Russian cinematography took a heavy toll.

Two months before the festival, one of the genius teenage actors, a 15-year-old star of the film Vladimir Garin had tragically drowned in the same Ladozhskoye Lake, where the movie had been shot. He drowned the same way it had been described in the screenplay, which had been changed by Mr. Zvyagintsev at the very last moment. In the movie the father drowns instead of the son.

However, life apparently would not let the director rewrite the destiny of a teenage actor.

The drawn frame was doomed to become reality.

Anatoli Korolyov, RIAN

Author`s name Petr Ernilin