The first two-thirds are an extraordinary slow burn that provides ample time to admire Mr. Zvyagintsev’s talent with the wide frame. The movie is marred by an unsatisfying resolution, which has a coyness better suited to literature.
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The elements are all in place – superb acting (lead actor Konstantin Lavronenko won the best actor prize at Cannes in 2007), masterly camerawork, an ethereal score, ghostly locations – but the problem is that the story never really connects.
The Banishment may lack the surprise factor of The Return but it's more mature and less wedded to virtuosic technique.
It feels more like a ciné dissertation designed to showcase Zvyagintsev’s appreciation of the medium than an original piece of cinema.
The undeniably talented helmer’s sophomore feature has little of the emotional power of “The Return,” though d.p. Mikhail Krichman does stellar work and thesping is faultless.
The Banishment (Izgnanie) starts off like a thriller with a car roaring into the city and a clandestine surgery by a man to remove a bullet in his brother's arm. Then, ever so slowly, the movie falls into the clutches of long, solemn stares into space, meaningful drags on cigarettes, cryptic dialogue revealing little and a tiny drama that feels old, tired and empty of real purpose.
It is truly something to see; for among all the lives to be ruined it is a visual rhapsody, attentive to every nuance in the spectacular land and foliage around the family home, following the lives within as meticulously as it traces the dramatic changes in weather — from clear day to torrential showers — in one of the longest, most intricate and beautiful tracking shots in cinema.
There is an outstanding film somewhere inside this sprawling mass of ideas, which might have been shaped more exactingly in the edit.