Cannes 2017: The Fest Opens with Ismael’s Ghost, Loveless
While the celebrity cast and guests for Ismael’s Ghost ascended the steps to the Grand Theatre Lumiere later for the official premiere, we press were in the Debussy Theatre for the debut of the first film in competition, Loveless by Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev (Oscar-nominated Leviathan, winner of Best Screenplay at Cannes 2014). It’s a stately and mournful tragedy about a runaway child, full of procedural details that build a quiet and open-ended suspense.
Zvyagintsev makes the muted beauty of the winter landscape a significant element in a story, giving a sense of passing time through the imagery and elements of nature. A husband and wife on the verge of divorce argue loudly in their small apartment, each eager to be free, and neither wanting custody of their 12-year-old son Alexey. The camera catches the image of the boy sobbing silently in the dark behind the bathroom door, his face wracked with grief.
Alexey soon disappears from the film, present only in the all-encompassing sense of the mystery of his absence. This is the story of adult relationships and the myriad large and small ways in which regret, anger and recrimination become repeating patterns in a life, from one generation to the next. Alexey’s mother Zhenya has a new lover, a well-to-do divorced man, while Alexey’s father Boris is expecting a child with his new much-younger paramour. The trajectory of repetition is already set to play out. As a volunteer task force scours the city and nearby woods for days in search of the boy, it becomes clear that Zvyagintsev will leave it to his audience to find Alexey.