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Father (Andrej Shetinin) and Son (Alexei Nejmyshev) live together in a rooftop apartment. They have lived alone for years in their own private world, full of memories and daily rituals. Sometimes they seem like brothers. Sometimes even like lovers. Following in his father's footsteps, Alexei attends military school. He likes sports, tends to be irresponsible and has problems with his girlfriend. She is jealous of Alexei's close relationship with his father. Despite knowing that all sons must one day live their own lives, Alexei is conflicted. Alexei's father knows he should maybe accept a better job in another city, maybe search for a new wife. But who will ease the pain of Alexei's nightmares? Written by
Once in a While a Great Master Appears: Aleksandr Sokurov
Aleksandr Sokurov is as artist of the highest order. Not only does he understand his medium of film as his chosen avenue of creating art, he has the gifts of ingenuity, fresh creativity, and daring that make his works unique and stunning without any of the hoopla of 'experimental' filmmakers: Sokurov honors his humanity and celebrates the miracle of life with every stroke of his hand.
For those first introduced to Sokurov by viewing his extraordinary Russian ARK, a film of such importance historically as well as culturally and artistically that it stands alone: the conception and pre-camera preparation of covering 300 years of Russian history as played out in the Hermitage Museum buildings allowed this master to turn on the camera and record non-stop for the hour and a half of the complete story. The result is breathtakingly beautiful and enormously educational and enlightening - all that one can ask from a work of art.
In FATHER AND SON Sokurov has distilled all of his energy into a quiet, rhapsodic, sensually elegant examination of the relationship between a father and son. There is not much story: there is much being said. A father (the handsome and sensual Andrei Shchetinin) lives with his son Aleksei (Aleksei Nejmyshev - as handsome and virile and tender as Shchetinin) in a rooftop flat in St. Petersberg. The father has had a military career and the son is now at age 19 in military school studying medicine along with his training. The mother is dead and the father and son are closely bonded by her absence and by an amazing love for each other.
Aleksei has had a girlfriend (the incandescently beautiful Marina Zasukhina) but seeing that she is competing unsuccessfully for Aleksei's love for his father, she informs him she has found another love. Another young military student Sasha (Aleksandr Razbash) observes the strong bond between Aleksei and his father and being without a father, asks to move in their flat. Knowing that their time as unified family is limited by the way life passes, the two remain living alone.
Aleksei has dreams that approach nightmares but generally deal with separation anxiety. The father is always there to console Aleksei after his dreams and gently encourages him to pursue the life that will bring him happiness.
And that is really the bulk of the story, simple and short as it may sound. The brilliance of Sokurov's genius is in his means of telling this simple tale. He has elected to film using varying lenses and limiting his color spectrum to the sepia tones that resemble daguerreotypes come to life. His use of moments of Tchaikovsky melodies is sensitive and additive to the mood. His ability to linger over extended physical embraces between this father and son says more about love than any filmmaker before him. Part of the magic he creates is due to the physical beauty of the two actors embracing in the nude in the soft winter light of their rooftop flat.
Some viewers have found this homo-erotic and are concerned about that aspect of a father with son. A pity, that, being concerned about homo-eroticism: the passion between father and son should be able to be viewed on every level for its richness, not for the fear of censorship.
FATHER AND SON is one of the most beautiful artworks on film I have ever viewed. I felt the same about Russian ARK. I eagerly await viewing his MOTHER AND SON and all the other works that hopefully will flow from Sokurov's gifted mind and talent. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, March 2005
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