Elena (Nadezhda Markina), a dutiful wife to her wealthy husband and a burdened mother to her layabout son, manages to balance the needs of the two, until she learns her husband plans to leave her family nothing in his will.
Credit Zeitgeist Films
Elena cares for her husband Vladimir's (Andrey Smirnov) needs in a relationship whose true nature is not entirely clear.
On its surface alone, Andrey Zvyagintsev's Elena is an intensely compelling slice of noir about moral rot and class warfare in post-Soviet Russia. Deeper down, the movie seethes quietly with the moody influence of other East European masters of the timeless ineffable. If Zvyagintsev were a less inscrutable filmmaker, he might have titled his new film Crime Without Punishment — but we'll get to that.
In seeking the best ways to treat his female patients' nervous conditions, forward-thinking Victorian physician Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy, left) enlists the help of his inventor friend Edmund St. John-Smythe (Rupert Everett). They soon stumble into inventing the vibrator.
Credit Sony Pictures Classics
Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Charlotte Dalrymple, the rebellious activist daughter of the physician whose practice Granville joins.
Hysteria, a disappointingly limp ode to the invention of the vibrator, plays like a Merchant Ivory Production of Portnoy's Complaint. Watching it, you'd never know that this revolutionary discovery, by allowing women to pleasure themselves, hammered a crucial nail into the coffin of 19th-century patriarchy. A boon to bluestockings and unsatisfied wives alike, the device rocked sexual politics, even if its full repercussions were not immediately understood.