Written April 12, 2015
Anyone going to see this needs a modicum of information about Russian society and culture. Go to ***booktv.org; search "Russia", then select the book "It Was a LongTime Ago, and It Never Happened Anyway; Russia and the Communist Past". The author presents a synopsis of this book that will give you a good foundation for appreciating the characters in this movie.
Written May 16, 2012
"“Tarantulas in a jar” may be a good metaphor for Putin’s Russia, and this kind of anthropological perspective may be the best way to observe the worst sides of ourselves, but director Andrey Zvyaginstev’s new film Elena makes the unpardonable error of using his characters to enact a kind of Marxist critique of modern Russia, rather than allowing the story to tell itself. A story should unfold through the characters, allowing their actions to inform a critique (if a critique is present) that appears to the viewer as if he had though it up himself. Unsurprisingly, the film cuts a swath as labored and toxic as heavy water..."
See full review at Le Journal de Charles Haas.