Working class mechanic Kolya (Serebryakov), his second wife Lilya (Lyadova) and his son live in a ramshackle house on the edge of the Barents Sea in Northern Russia. The corrupt mayor (Madyanov) of the town claims the land and Kolya loses a court appeal. Not content to accept defeat, Kolya brings in his lawyer friend Dmitri (Vdovichenkov) from Moscow, and the two men conspire to beat the system at any cost.
Loosely based on the Book of Job, this scathing satire of government, police and the clergy was partially funded by the Ministry of Culture, and put forward for Oscar submission despite its “non-patriotic” subject matter. Zvyagintsev calls it a universal parable for man’s suffering (he was inspired by a true story out of Colorado). Shot in stunning widescreen, the awe-inspiring coastal vistas stand in contrast to the human turmoil on screen. Absurdly funny and deeply tragic, Zvyagintsev’s fourth feature was most deserving of its Academy Award nomination.