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Directed by Aleksandr Sokurov
Produced in 2011
Main Language - German with English subtitles
Johannes Zeiler, Anton Adasinsky
A truly remarkable adaptation of Goethe's Faust, which demonstrates that Sokurov is out there in a rewarding cinematic world of his own, writes Mike McCahill.
Aleksandr Sokurov’s Goethe adaptation opens with a complex digital establishing shot – descending from the ionosphere into a hellish, computer-generated German town – more redolent of multiplex than arthouse cinema. The claims being made for this director as a master of both old and new methodologies immediately seem that much more pressing; the new film is as multidiscipline as they come, owing as much to the VFX lab as it does to Sokurov’s forays into opera and theatre. It’s the work of an artist who, after years of tilling the fields for inspiration, has suddenly discovered the existence of Photoshop.
Like Sokurov’s earlier Russian Ark, Faust has been conceived as a single movement, transporting us from this infernal town’s diseased innards to its bleakly existential extremities. What this walk describes is the seduction of penniless mortician Faust (Johannes Zeiler) by a diabolical character known only as 'the Moneylender' (performance artist Anton Adasinskiy, extraordinary in a latex bodysuit). You could think of it as a metaphysical Before Sunrise – only here the dawn brings not consummation, but damnation.
It remains a remarkable landscape to pass through, generating endless spectacle and set-pieces: a subterranean idyll populated by frolicking washerwomen, a pub where the Moneylender draws torrents of blood-red wine from the walls (and lures the drinkers into sating their own bloodlusts), a homunculus in a jar that may count as the freakiest film prop since the sentient tree-root in Svankmajer’s Little Otik, the fleshy pun on the phrase 'cradlesnatcher' with which the film approaches its finale.
All of this is compounded by the director’s penchant for warping the image, as initiated in Mother and Son, and which here seems peculiarly appropriate for a tale of a man falling under outside, possibly satanic influence. Faust was shot in the practically square 1.33:1 aspect ratio, but has been processed in 1.85:1, resulting in a round-cornered image with a misty, singular look. A deserved (if controversial) winner of last year’s Venice Golden Lion, it’s prime Sokurov: visually dazzling, rich in possible interpretations, and finally quite unlike anything else out there in the universe right now, never mind the cinema.
Mike McCahill on 16th July 2012
Author of 215 reviews
Russian screenwriter and director Alexander Sokurov's fifteenth feature presents a free interpretation of the legend of Faust - the man who sells his soul to the devil to assuage his great thirst for knowledge. The winner of the Golden Lion at Venice in 2011, the film features engaging performances from Johannes Zeiler, Anton Adasinsky and Isolda Dychauk and a typically evocative and idiosyncratic use of light and filming techniques from Sokurov.
Publisher: Artificial Eye
Length: 139 mins
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1 widescreen
Cat No: ART607DVD
Format: DVD Colour
by RAYMOND JONES on 11th January 2013
Waste of time & money. Half-baked, rambling script that goes nowhere set against a sordid backdrop. Tedious & incomprehensible. Goethe it certainly ain't. Avoid at all... Read on
Waste of time & money. Half-baked, rambling script that goes nowhere set against a sordid backdrop. Tedious & incomprehensible. Goethe it certainly ain't. Avoid at all costs! Hide
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