A film in the darkest Dostoeyevskian tradition, a modern Russian version of Job: very much like the Coen Bros. "A Serious Man," but without the irony. This is a straightforward account of injustice crushing upon one man: as the world judges him, squeezing the life out of him blow by blow, the world in turn is weighed in the balance and found rotten to its core. State, church, and private power combine in a nexus that leaves no room for justice but in the next world and even that is gamed. Although the story can be taken as a microcosm of "life in Putin's Russia" (with the obligatory photo of El Presidente in the Mayor's office) its theme of corruption and injustice is universal and by no means unknown in the happy little place where you live.
The measured pace does not detract from the film, nor the extended opening and closing shots: nature goes on its timeless way as if none of this story happened or its people mattered. Perhaps that - as opposed to the false arrests, infidelity, betrayal, and violence suffered by its characters - is the film's most disturbing element. This Russian tragedy is a solid counter to the moralistic, can-do happy ends demanded in Western literature, a product of a place with a sadder but wiser take on humanity.