The Banishment Konstantin Lavronenko, Marie Bonnevie, Aleksandr Baluyev Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev For the visual panache which lights up nearly every frame of its 210 minutes, Andrey Zvyagintsev's second film embodies exactly what is wrong with some of the contemporary art house fare travelling the film festival circuit. While it is a powerful showcase of Zvyagintsev's riveting imagery, The Banishment stutters in the dramatic department. The friction between the protagonists is largely unexplained, leaving a film driven by contrived misery. It's a missed opportunity for the Russian filmmaker to consolidate his artistic standing, given the myriad compelling images herein. In the opening scene, Mark (Aleksandr Baluyev) emerges with a gunshot wound in his arm, seeking the help of his brother Alex (Konstatin Lavronenko, below right, who was named best actor at Cannes last year). Moments later, we see the latter packing up and relocating his family to his childhood home, a cottage in the Russian hinterlands. It's there that his wife, Vera (Swedish star Marie Bonnevie) announces she's pregnant with someone else's child. The fallout is immense, as Alex struggles with the news - and in effect his masculinity - when he suspects his best friend, Max (Andrey Shibarshin), as having cuckolded him. The sense of tragic inevitability - signified by the glum expressions and long silences punctuated by an Arvo Part score - is finally brought full circle with deaths all around, through which Alex realises the truth behind Vera's claims. What undermines The Banishment is a lack of substantial hints which could shed light on the fraught relationships among the characters: they radiate anguish at every turn, but viewers are none the wiser about the reasons. When The Return won the Golden Lion in Venice, Zvyagintsev was seen as the successor to Andrei Tarvovsky; on the evidence of The Banishment, he seems to be still lacking in details to back the spirituality in his work. Extras: Interview with Zvyagintsev; trailer.