The Banishment ***
Directed by Andrei Zvyagintsev
"The Banishment" unfolds like an epic Russian novel-and I have read a couple of those, and am actually reading one right now. And this makes sense, as the film is a mini epic of its own, clocking in at two and a half hours. And I think that what makes "The Banishment" suffer is the massive length and the slow pacing, which even though the film is filled with many twists that will catch you off guard and change the ideas you had for all the characters-and I stress the word all-it takes a long time to get there. Patience will reward you, but at times I found my mind wandering out of the movie.
"The Banishment" can best be described as a family epic, and we are introduced to a family of four. The patriarch Alex, the matriarch Vera, and their two children Kir and Eva. They move into a house in the country for a week or two, the same house that Alex and his somewhat estranged brother Mark's father grew up in. But Alex refuses to sell it. As they settle into the home, Vera ends up making a strong declaration to Alex-"I'm expecting a child and it isn't yours." Suddenly Alex begins to look at everything in a different light. When his son says how much he dislikes his "Uncle" Robert, Alex inquires why and learns that Robert was in the house one night when the kids came back from the circus with another family friend. And when Mark makes a suggestion to Alex-if you need to kill her, kill her, and if you want to forgive her, forgive her," the rest of the film becomes a suspense martial horror film, with ending twists that you won't figure out at all.
The third climatic act is really the meat of the movie-the revelations and the turns in the characters. But at times the pacing was too slow, often just showing an image of a field or am empty room for longer than needed. There were several unnecessarily long pauses in between conversations. And I understand that Zvyagintsev was trying to build up the tension and at times it works-especially towards the end when you don't exactly know what to expect-but it took a while to get there. The performances are all great-especially Konstantin Lavronenko who plays Alex. Here is a guy that is confused about what to do next. He doesn't know how to handle his wife's revelation. He loves her and hates her. He wants her to get rid of the baby, or he just wants to kill her. The presence of a gun and knowing that it is in his drawer at all times is foreshadowing, but is it? Zvyagintsev is good at playing with his audiences head, and he does it all throughout this film. I could see "The Banishment" getting a release in art house theatre at some time-perhaps New York's Cinema Village-and it is a good film-slow but rewarding. Cinema of Patience as some might put it. Its not one of the fest's best, but its well worth soughting out,