Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev
Year Released: 2011
An older couple, a former nurse (Nadezhda Markina) and her spouse, a wealthy businessman (Andrey Smirnov) each have children from previous relationships - her son is a heavy-drinking bum (with his own family) and his daughter is a promiscuous, angry young woman - and the two of them have an argument about whether or not he can help pay for her grandson's college education: he refuses, but he also (conveniently) becomes ill and dies (by her hand), so she destroys what would be his will in order to provide for her own family. Though admirers praise this for its apparent critique of Tsar Putin's Russia, you could make this film basically anywhere in the world and it could be a criticism of any society with class issues: by the conclusion, the lower-classes move into the home of the upper-class, and it required nefarious deeds in order to do so ... which basically means, subtext wise, it's hardly unique to Russia. Further, Zvyagintsev's sterile approach to filmmaking with this story full of unredeemable, unpleasant people (cribbed from Hollywood noirs) keeps one at arm's length - it's like watching mostly silent vultures peck at one another, and the result isn't empathy but passive disdain. Art school symbolism alert: there's a dead white horse by a train.