Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless is every bit as miserable as the title would already imply that it is, as a matter of fact because of that misery it also makes for a watch that just feels so unpleasant all throughout. While it’s also undeniably a very beautiful film to look at, it also reminded me far too much of the films of Alejandro G. Iñárritu, because of his own habit to dwell within misery as a means of eliciting a certain mood from the viewer. And quite like the films of Iñárritu, this wasn’t a feeling of misery that I had ever felt myself growing attached to, it was just a feeling of misery that only kept me waiting for the film to end because it only dwells so much in that very bleakness without ever having a touch of humanity present – which felt so unlike the other two films I had seen of Zvyagintsev’s.
Telling a story of separated parents who have lived their lives accordingly, Loveless is a bleak film about the relationship between Russia and Ukraine given the film’s setting; an allegory that doesn’t quite work as well as it should because it just feels too blunt for its own good. It was this very bluntness that only made this experience of watching Loveless feel so much more like a chore because Zvyagintsev never feels so focused with his intent, rather it just seems hell-bent on torturing his lead characters who are already immensely unlikable. There’s another story coming clear because of how their lack of love has clearly left a damaging effect on the way that the children have grown, but it never has enough time to shine as is.
Besides that, I’m not so sure why Zvyagintsev needs to tell this story in such an overly misanthropic light as if it could never feel any more distanced from the viewers as is. From watching a film like Leviathan you would already be given the impression that within the bleakness of the atmosphere that it creates, because it never seems to have much else that truly communicates with its own viewers in that sense. Rather instead, we’re just dropped within the conflict of two parents who are continuously being tortured as if the experience of watching Loveless could not possibly feel any more tedious than it already is. It just feels like an anger that never goes anywhere, because everything is kept so vague whether it be the general social commentary or the specific political context.
It seems so frustrating that this is how the film made me feel because visually, it’s also an astounding piece of work. The cinematography is absolutely beautiful but because of this very quality to which it carries it also feels like a jarring contrast as to the content that we are watching, which is just merely depressing. It just adds more to the general sense of disconnect that I had felt, which only feels so ironic for a film whose own conflict is built upon how people have only started to feel disconnected from one another. It only creates another sense of muteness between the film and how it communicates with its viewers, because one can only be drawn in to watch for the cinematography and even then, there is so little connection ever being formed from then.
Loveless is an aptly fitting title, because there’s not really so much to love about it beyond the way it looks. The general story is tedious and the characters are immensely unlikable, and its most interesting aspects never have enough time to shine on the screen. But when I can’t find much reason to feel for anything beyond the coldness of the film, it’s easy enough to have me equally disconnected. But what point is there to be found in watching these disconnected souls torturing themselves all the more? There’s a point to where I know I can appreciate coldness as I know Michael Haneke uses it brilliantly to reflect the emotional state of his characters yet here, it feels so much like nothing akin to an Iñárritu film. I know Zvyagintsev is capable of drawing more from his audiences, but as is, I’ll just take the My Bloody Valentine album of the same name instead.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Sony Pictures Classics.
Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev
Screenplay by Oleg Negin, Andrey Zvyagintsev
Produced by Alexander Rodnyansky, Sergey Melkumov, Gleb Fetisov
Starring Maryana Spivak, Aleksey Rozin, Matvey Novikov, Marina Vasilyeva, Andris Keišs
Release Year: 2017
Running Time: 127 minutes