Elena, a Russian film, has a dead horse, a murder, an aging woman, a box containing cash, and an young angry man. Yes, this sounds a lot like Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. Though the elements are very similar, there are some huge differences between the sprawling novel, which is set in the middle of the 19th century (the rise of industrial capitalism), and this tightly shot and directed movie, which is set in our moment, the dawn of the 21st century (the fall of neoliberal capitalism).
I will not detail the differences, as that would reveal the plot of this masterpiece of economical filmmaking (no fat on the acting, no waste in the script, no ambiguity about the class position of the characters, strict and focused cinematography, and a lean score—Philip Glass's Symphony No. 3 is played exactly three times). But I will say that Elena leaves you with the sense that the old Russian dushá (spirit, soul) or Russian spirituality (a spirituality that permeates, for example, Crime and Punishment) has been replaced by the cold, evolutionary logic of the selfish genes. The magic of Russian madness has been driven to extinction by the power pressures of money (pay attention to the horse scene in this movie). If you are not thinking about money, searching for money, making money, then you will fail to support, feed, shelter, educate the vehicles that will transport your genes into the future (pay attention to the final shots of this movie). Varsity Theatre, July 12–17.