Leviathan director Zvyagintsev holds up a mirror to corruption and hard times in Russia – but it’s made him enemies of some powerful figures in the process. He talks about his new film, Loveless, and how he fell out with the political establishment

Andrey Zvyagintsev makes heavyweight political dramas that move smoothly, hit hard and leave colourful bruises. His subject is a broken system, a lawless land, and so he fills his stories with scheming politicians and downtrodden victims. The bus shelters are festooned with missing person posters, a dead dog hangs in the boughs of a blighted city tree and the court officials pass judgment in such a rapid-fire monotone that the words lose all meaning. His films tell us that hell exists – and that its name is modern Russia.

In his homeland, predictably, the authorities have taken great umbrage at this. Having ardently championed Zvyagintsev in the past, they appear to have suffered a case of buyer’s remorse, recoiling from his 2014 film Leviathan an instant after they had anointed it as the nation’s Academy Awards nominee. His latest work, Loveless, was made without state support, assembled with European cash to paint a black-as-pitch portrait of the Moscow middle class. “I’m outside the system. My producer finds the money,” Zvyagintsev explains. “And that makes me a very happy film-maker.”

Related: Loveless review – eerie thriller of hypnotic, mysterious intensity from Leviathan director

Having initially rubber-stamped Leviathan as Russia’s Oscar contender, the authorities abruptly decided they loathed it

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