Sony will release Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Cannes competition contender Loveless across the director’s home territory of Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States, which is a collection of former Soviet states.
The film will be released by Sony’s Russian unit Walt Disney Studios Sony Pictures Releasing (WDSSPR) on around 600 screens across Russia on June 1, days after the closing of the 70th edition of the Cannes Film Festival on May 28, its producer Alexander Rodnyansky told The Hollywood Reporter.
Zvyagintsev’s fourth feature is his fourth appearance in the official selection at Cannes and his third competition entry. Three years ago, his last film, Leviathan, won the best screenplay honor in the festival’s competition before going on to win a Golden Globe. It narrowly missed out on an Oscar in 2015 when Poland’s Ida took that honor in the best foreign-language film category.
Loveless, which opens the Palme d’Or competition program on May 18, tells the story of a couple locked in a bitter divorce battle forced to cooperate when its young son goes missing after witnessing one of his parents’ violent arguments.
The film was made without any Russian state subsidies as Russia’s culture minister Vladimir Medinsky blacklisted Zvyaginstev for future funding after dubbing Leviathan “anti-Russian.”
At the time, commenting on the Golden Globe win for Leviathan, Medinsky said: “Films that are sharply critical of the current government and, frankly spit on it, filled with hopelessness and existential meaninglessness, should not be funded by taxpayers.”
Rodnyansky, who produces Zvyaginstev’s films, said that following the “uproar” over Leviathan he had made a “conscious decision to make our next with film without any state involvement whatsoever.” He added: “We never applied for state money and no one ever came to us volunteering to provide any.”
The film, for which Rodnyansky declined to specify the budget other than to say Zvyagintsev’s works were usually “moderately expensive,” was made as a European co-production involving his company Non-Stop Production, Russian producer Gleb Fetisov’s Fetisoff Illusion, French company Why Not Production, Belgium’s Les Films du Fleuve and Germany company Senior Film Production with support from Eurimages, Arte, Canal+, WDR and Cine+.
The film has been pre-sold for distribution in France through Pyramide Distribution, and Paris-based Wild Bunch is handling international sales.
Rodnyansky added that he has worked with WDSSPR in Russia many times — for example on Stalingrad, the highest-grossing Russian film of the past decade — and on his most recent release The Duelist.
There has been no word from Russian culture minister Medinksy on the inclusion of Loveless in the official selection at Cannes.
Leviathan, which was Zvyaginstev’s only film to ever receive any government funding, was partially financed by the culture ministry. Medinsky still reportedly uses the film as an example for “wrong” funding choices.
Rodnyansky declined to comment on Medinsky’s reported attitude other than to say: “It seems to me that in the opinion of the Ministry of Culture there are more important events in the cultural life of our country than a Russian film being selected to compete in the most prestigious international film festival.”