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Russian Zvyagintsev makes his Cannes debut with The Banishment

CANNES, May 18 (RIA Novosti) - Russian director Andrei Zvyagintsev will make his debut at the Cannes Festival Friday with a new film, The Banishment, the first of two Russian features in the competition program.

The Banishment, a psychological drama based on William Saroyan's The Laughing Matter, will be shown on the third day of the festival, May 18. It features the relationship between husband and wife, starring Konstantin Lavronenko and Norwegian-Swedish actress Maria Bonnevie, who learnt Russian in three years for the film.

All festival editions published brief reviews of the film following its first press screening Thursday. The reviews praised the depth of the plot, the stunning soundtrack and sensitive approach by the director.

Zvyagintsev, 43, began working on The Banishment shortly after returning from Venice with two Golden Lions for his film debut, The Return, in 2004.

"This project took me nearly three years, starting from when I first thought about the plot," the director said. "In all, there were 103 shooting days, in France, Belgium, Moldova and Russia."

"It is a film without time or space: we wanted to create an environment of time and territory so that it was difficult to understand where and when the action is unfolding," he said.

When asked about similarities in his style and that of internationally renowned directors Andrei Tarkovsky and Michelangelo Antonioni, Zvyagintsev said, "I did not deliberately copy anyone. My films probably resemble Antonioni's or Tarkovsky's only because I grew up with their masterpieces."

The director said Thursday he was delighted that Maria Bonnevie had agreed to be cast in his film. "I met Maria accidentally, and immediately fell in love," he said. "She is amazing: beautiful, feminine, with vibrating energy and undoubtedly huge talent."

Zvyagintsev's film will have to withstand fierce competition from Quentin Tarantino, Wong Kar-wai, and another Russian director, Alexander Sokurov with Alexandra.

Many critics say the main prize, Palme D'or, is most likely to go to the debutant, Zvyagintsev, rather than the established masters. The results will be known only May 27, the last day of the festival.

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