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 Andrei Zvyagintsev

Born:   6 February 1964

Film Director


Overwhelming fame - that is something not easy to cope with: the acknowledgments of the world leading cinema critics threaten to label Andrei Zvyagintsev 'the second Tarkovsky' or something of the kind. Zvyagintsev is called a phenomenon. His first full-length feature film 'Return' he directed at the age of 38 has justly brought him universal acclaim.


Andrei Petrovich Zvyagintsev was born on February 6, 1964 in Novosibirsk city. He graduated from the acting faculty of Novosibirsk Theatre College (L. Belov's studio) in 1984 and the acting faculty of GITIS (State Institute of Theatre Arts) (E. Lazarev's studio) in 1990.


Zvyagintsev takes part in some theatre projects as an actor: Igra V Klassiki/Hopscotch in 1993 and A Month in the Village in 1997.


From 1992 to 2000 he plays some episodic parts in TV serials "Goryachev and Others" (1992 - 1994), "Budem Znakomy/ Nice to Meet You" (1999), "Kamenskaya. Death and a bit of Love" and in feature films "Kotyonok/A Kitten" (1996) and "Shyrli-Myrli" (1999).


In 2000 he debuts as director of feature films on TV with "Black Room": novelettes Bushido, Obscure and Choice.


The year 2003 saw the release of the "Return" - something the Russian cinema and the viewer had thirsted for. Spellbinding with poetry of grim scenery and characters' portraits the film dwells upon eternal issues of parents and children's relations, of growing up, of rebellion and surrender, of selfishness and love, of man and God.

Andrei Zvyagintsev, Vanya Dobronravov and Konstantin Lavronenko

The film at once took two 'Golden Lions' at the cinema festival in Venice and was bought for distribution in 32 countries of the world. It was also proposed for Oscar as the best Russian film of the year. However it was not nominated. "I do not think the movie will take Oscar. Actually the film has been created not for gaining awards and prizes. It is a creative film", - remarked the film director when the Russian public was expecting "Return" to take the Oscar.


Neither was the film created for the money purpose - that is obvious. In spite of the fact its success was also commercial. Within the first two weeks of general release the film collected $ 260 thousand though its budget was rather modest ($ 45 thousand).


Andrei mentioned that he was addressing the film to the Russian viewer first of all. However, Russia perceived the film long after other countries appreciated it. Russia was invaded with commercial Hollywood blockbusters when the "Return" was released. Anyway, Zvyagintsev's film premiered with a great success in Moscow.

Vanya Dobronravov and Volodya Garin in ‘Return’

Unfortunately, the success of the movie was darkened by the death of one of the film stars, the 15 year-old Vladimir Garin. By some weird coincidence the boy got drowned in the Ladozhskoe Lake not far from the filming venue.


The film summary: The life of two brothers Andrei (Volodya Garin) and Ivan (Vanya Dobronravov) turns upside down with the return of their father (Konstantin Lavronenko), whom they know only by a ten year old photo. Everything changes as the father, a perfect stranger to them, tears them out of their habitual existence in a quiet native town and brings them to a deserted island…


"Tell us, what was there in that box and why did they go to that island?" - not once inquire interviewers. The film director answers that he altered the beginning and the end of the script, initially more focused on mafia and adventures, but then the explanation breaks up: "You know it's you who are to decide as the viewer what there was in that box. I have said everything I wanted with my film".

Andrei Zvyagintsev

Truly, much has been said in the complicated "Return", which appears a sophisticated parable leaving lots of space for interpretation. A deeper insight into the film cannot but reveal direct allusions to the New Testament and some cinema critics eagerly explain that the Father in the film stands for God, returning to his children. But…is he in anyway similar to God, loving, omniscient, understanding and forgiving? The viewpoint of the priest Dmitry Sverdlov seems much more competent. He explains in his article that the film reveals the tragedy of man taking the place of God and striving to impose on others the will of his ignorant limited ego. But his opinion also seems one-sided as he claims the film to be "anti-Christian".


Whatever the priests and critics might say you'd better watch the movie yourself and meditate on it.


As for the creator of this unfathomed film he is now working on another movie titled "The Smell of Stone", being filmed in a number of countries of the world.


Vera Ivanova



Tags: Russian Film Directors     

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