Aleksander Sokurov brings the treasures of the Hermitage back into the light by making films about artists and their paintings. He has chosen the painter Hubert Robert, who spent a long ... See full summary »
You cannot say Sokurov lacks vision. Whether or not you share that vision is another matter.
A son returns to a bleak Siberian town to organise his father's funeral. The father seems to have died alone, friendless, and in poverty. His skeletal remains suggest malnutrition, but the mound of cigarette butts in the ashtray hint it was self-inflicted. The son's emotional response to this situation would best be described as dazed and confused.
Long, ponderous takes predominate, the son stares off into space for interminably long periods, various characters both menacing and comic flit in and out to flesh out the absurdist premise. It is as bleak, excoriating, grey and depressing as all the commentators have indicated. It also alienates its audience and fails to engage emotionally. The so-called comic moments, especially the brutish undertaker and her shouted threats and violence, are stilted and embarrassing (and not in a deliberate sense - this is not the comedy of embarrassment). Cinematography lacks any coherent sense of purpose. The son's feelings about his father's demise, and a sense of his life off-screen are completely denuded from the narrative. The burial arrangements of a man are relayed in fractured, episodic moments that neither inform or move us.
The audience I watched it with at BFI Southbank in London had one collective emotional response to this - relief, when it was finished. A turgid and inaccessible film.
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