Thursday, 10 May 2012

Alexander Sokurov's 'Faust'

Film Review: Alexander Sokurov's 'Faust'

Making its way to UK cinemas eight months on from its Golden Lion win at last year'sVenice Film Festival, Alexander Sokurov's Faust (2011) has lost little of its enigmatic zeal in the interim period. Critical opinion has been somewhat divided on this final chapter in the Russian director's tetralogy (which includes 1999's Moloch, 2000'sTaurus and 2005's The Sun), yet for all its over-ambition and debatable inaccessibility, this unique take on Goethe's classic tale remains one of the most mesmeric, hypnotic cinematic experiences of the last twelve months.

As with Goethe's original text, Sokurov's adaptation centres on the somewhat lowly character of Faust (Johannes Zeiler), a professor and alchemist who craves knowledge, yet finds himself constrained by the limitations of human understanding. It is his own poverty-plagued existence which leads our protagonist to the town's demonic moneylender Mephistopheles (Anton Adasinskiy), a repugnant, overweight creature who quickly agrees to aid Faust in his quest - in exchange for possession of his eternal soul.

From its magnificent opening shot, tearing through the atmosphere to gaze down from the heavens before reappearing inside a human cadaver, Sokurov's latest work demands to be seen writ large on the big screen. The sheer scale of the existentialist subjects at hand can easily overwhelm, and those not 100% willing to follow the modern Russian master in his dreamlike voyage may well find themselves lost and seemingly abandoned within the opening half an hour. However, those willing to dedicate a little time and patience to the painterly Faust will, like the character of Mephistopheles, find themselves richly rewarded. ...

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