Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. , . . Screenplay by , , based on the novel The Laughing Matter by . Cinematography by . Produced by . Music by , . Production Design by . Film Editing by . Cannes Film Festival 2007. Toronto International Film Festival 2007.
A low-level goon needs a bullet removed from his arm and heads to his doctor brother Alex to have it removed, hesitant to go to a hospital because he wants to avoid the law. Alex waits for him to recover and then leaves for the countryside with his wife and children, but the peace they find in the wavy grasses surrounding their isolated house is soon interrupted. Alex’s wife tells him that she is pregnant and the baby might not be his, which sends him into a rage that then leads to a series of tragedies that result from the characters’ being so tied to each other but refusing to communicate. Andrey Zvyagintsev’s hypnotic drama, which transports William Saroyan’s The Laughing Matter to a Russian setting, examines the brutality of masculinity in a culture obsessed with it in elegant, languorous passages that emphasize the kind of visual poetry that fans of Tarkovsky will be thrilled by. The underlying tension isn’t consistent throughout,’s Alex is stubborn far more often than he is ambivalent and the running time is deeply felt as a result, but the classy cinematography combined with the complete lack of emotional manipulation (in a plot that reeks of melodrama) will make it resonate with some audiences.