In 2003 the film by a young Russian director was awarded the Golden Lion at the 60th Venice Film Festival: Andrej Zvyagincev’s Vozvraščenje (The Return). The beginning of the new millennium therefore began with the recognition, by one of the most prestigious Western film institutions, of the awaited and perhaps definitive rebirth of post-Soviet Russian cinema, or its regeneration, thanks to a new generation of young directors, after a decade of first attempts in this direction, such as the lucky ones of Alexei Balabanov (1959-2013). Film Author – Brat (Brother) – who had achieved great success in 1997, Balabanov was rightly considered among the first proponents of this renewal movement, carried on until his untimely death in 2013. With the harsh style of the postmodern gangster movie, Balabanov’s films told, also in the course of the 2000s, the undoing of a system that has come to the point of collapse and unable to renew itself except through the use of violence and oppression, as happens, among others, in Gruz 200 (2007; Cargo 200), which ten years after Brat’s release, it confirmed the director’s desire to come to terms with the history, cinematic and beyond, of a complex country like Russia.
This same need for comparison has crossed, in various ways, the production of other young directors over the last ten years. Among them, the aforementioned Zvyagincev who, even if in a more classical and less corrosive cinematic form than the one inaugurated by Balabanov, declined in Vozvraščenje his own need for confrontation with the past, in the explicit terms of the complicated relationship between a man for a long time far away, returned home after twelve years, and his two almost adolescent children, who grew up in the void of an absent paternal authority. An intimate and family story clearly becomes an opportunity to reflect on the moral and political condition of contemporary Russia, as happened – perhaps with less incisiveness – in subsequent Izgnanie. (2007, Exile) and Elena (2011), up to Leviathan (2014), winner of the Oscar for best foreign film, in which the accusation against powers, as strong as they are dehumanized, becomes explicit right from the title of the film.
Son of the great director Aleksej German – who passed away in 2013, immediately after finishing the shooting of his latest film Trudno byt´ bogom (It’s hard to be a God) – Aleksej German Jr shares the complex reinterpretation project with the other young directors of his generation of some of the most significant pages of the twentieth century: the Second World War in Poslednij Poezd (2003, The last train), the years preceding the First World War and the Bolshevik revolution in Garpastum (2005), the Sixties and the conquest of space in Bumažnyj soldat (2008, The paper soldier), all films contiguous to each other as well as for the thematic line mentioned above, also for a style that has become recognizable above all by virtue of an expressive and anti-naturalistic use of color.
Alongside the tests of younger and more emerging directors, those of authors whose names had already emerged in Russian cinema of the seventies, eighties and nineties of the last century resist. Among these the name of Nikita Mikhalkov, returned to directing after almost ten years of hiatus in 2007 with 12, awarded with a special mention at the 64th Venice Film Festival, and Utomlënnye solncem 2 (2010, Il sole decannatore 2), should also be mentioned, unfortunate sequel to the film that had been the highest grossing in 1994. The Venice Film Festival also awarded the Golden Lion in 2011 Aleskandr Sokurov’s Faust (see, later returned to Venice with Francofonia, 2015) and in 2014, with the silver lion, Белый ночи почталь´она АлексейТряпцына (noto con il titolo The postman’s white nights ) di Андрей Кончаловский.