|Page 1 of 2:|| |
|Index||13 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Film review: Faust (Director: Alexander Sokurov)
Be warned: Do not expect Goethe's Faust. While acknowledging the most famous adaptation of the Faust saga and using some lines from Goethe's text, this is entirely Alexander Sokurov's vision. The final instalment of a tetralogy about power (the other parts having featured Hitler, Lenin and Emperor Hirohito), Faust is far removed from the well-known drama about the knowledge-seeking explorer of ultimate truths we have come accustomed to associated with the name. The things this Faust, although a scientist, is looking for, are much more basic. At first he is little more than a hungry beggar trying to get food and money. Later he craves for Margarethe whom he regards as little more than a desired sex partner. There is nothing Faustian about this Faust who believes neither in God nor a soul and has discarded knowledge along with the other two. When he disembowels a corpse in the opening scene, he no longer expects to find anything, he does it out of little more than boredom. And even if he did find something: He wouldn't really care. This is an aimless Faust - and because of it a restless one. He is constantly on the move, less concerned with where he is going than getting away from wherever he is. A driven wanderer, not a determined searcher, frantic, harassed, as if on the run. Sokurov's camera stays with him, mirroring his hectic movements and creating a rhythm very much its own. This not at all metaphysical search is conducted at an ever- increasing speed, threatening to swallow up the protagonist. It begins to slow down when he meets the usurer, a grossly disfigured man who is Sokurov's version of Mephisto. But as Faust is much reduced in grandeur so is the devil's agent, a miserly moneylender and pawnbroker, nothing more. As Faust meets the usurer, the frantic pace eases into something of a ghostly dance as Faust, properly fed, turns his desire on Margarethe. When he succeeds, all comes to a stop: Drenched in angelic light, there is a moment of complete arrest, time stands still, and we just see their faces in total forgetful bliss. But it can't last. And it doesn't.
Repeatedly, lines from Goethe's drama are spoken but as the film advances more and more of Faust's words end up uttered - and often ironically altered - by the usurer. They sound hollow at best and are, at worst, exposed as nothing but beautiful nonsense. The meaning we seek - and believe to find - in Faust, it has long departed, if it ever existed. The soulless universe Faust proclaims - Sokurov gives it its face: This is an ugly world, inhabited by ugly or at least strange people - memorable: Hanna Schygulla as the usurer's "wife" - bizarre but unquestioned happenings and no good whatsoever. There is a pale, sometimes blinding light over this universe, shapes get distorted in what appears to be the world of a dream, a nightmare. Who is the dreamer? Faust, the "devil", we?
All appearance of any sort of "reality" vanishes after Faust finally succeeds in his wooing of Margarethe. Faust finds himself and the usurer in a barren landscape remnant of Goethe's Faust 2, he meets the dead but there is nobody living. In a final act of childlike defiance he stones the usurer, however, he doesn't die. Faust doesn't need him anymore - they have long been one and the same. As Faust wanders off, he has become an unthinking pleasure seeker, the polar opposite of Goethe's explorer and man of action.
Sokurov has created a visual and atmospheric universe very much his own. The images seem covered with a yellow-greenish patina, in their paleness they embody the lifelessness of those dream creatures, those walking dead. Distorted figures and shapes help propel the film more and more into a dream state, yet the world Sokurov conjures up - whether "real" or not - is fully consistent. At times it feels like being inside a Hieronymus Bosch painting, it is a dirty, ugly, primitive, dying world. There may be no other living director who is capable of creating such a distinct and thoroughly convincing vision.
Yet this strength is also the weakness of his film. The deliberately placed shock moments, the total refusal to create any believable character, the strict adherence to a counter-reality totally removed from anything we know, helps close this universe hermetically. We may get a glimpse of it but it is like looking from the safe distance at something disgusting. So fascination is replaced by disgust, what first seems like a revelation becomes annoying, and in the end this whole story turns to a modestly shocking horror tale that leaves the viewer cold. What remains, his a visually stunning, almost revolutionary piece of film making that perfectly reflects its subject: it lacks a soul.
Russian screenwriter and director Alexandr Sokurov's fifteenth feature
film which he wrote, is a loose adaptation of the classic German legend
"Faust" by German writer and poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
(1749-1832). It premiered In competition at the 68th Venice Film
Festival in 2011, was shot on location in Spain and Iceland and
produced by Russian composer and producer Andrey Sigle. It tells the
story about scholar Heinrich Faust, a man with a great hunger for
knowledge. Heinrich is not pleased with his mundane life, but when
allured by Mephistopheles he becomes enchanted by a woman named
This character-driven and dialog-driven voyage into the human psyche has a stringently structured narrative with continuous dialog and is an atmospheric, dramatic and visually exceptional movie experience which is distinctly directed by a masterful director who creates versatile perspectives and invigorating scenes with his characteristic use of colors and soft focus. His detailed period piece takes place in the Harz mountain chain of Northern Germany between the Weser and Elbe Rivers during the 19th century and contains adventurous milieu depictions which are complimented by Elena Zhukova's ardent production design and French cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel's noticeable cinematography.
This wandering, philosophical and in-depth study of character about a man who makes a life-altering compromise for the sake of knowledge, is significantly reinforced by the marvellous use of light and the engaging acting performances by Austrian actor Johannes Zeiler, Russian actor Anton Adasinskiy and the understated acting performance by Russian actress Isolda Dychauk in her second feature film role. The fourth and final part of Alexandr Sokurov's tetralogy about the nature of power and how it influences man, was preceded by "Moloch" (1999), "Telets" (2001) and "The Sun" (2005). It gained, among other awards, the Golden Lion at the 68th Venice Film Festival in 2011.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This adaption orients itself on the original and legendary character of Dr. Faustus, but not in the Goethe version. As Dr. Faust is not an invention of Goethe, but actually a 15th century German legendary character, Sokurov portrays here the original story at its source. Faust is not driven by the wish to gain esoteric knowledge, but knowledge of how to seduce Margarethe as quickly as possible. Here lies the core: ANY character, even the ones that are not relevant to the story at all, is portrayed suffering from heavy psychological disorders. You name it, you find it: phobias, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, delusional disorder, schizoaffective disorder, antisocial personality, borderline personality, histrionic and narcissistic personality disorders, even paraphilia (sexual arousal to objects, situations, or individuals that are considered abnormal or harmful to the person or others) is displayed by Mephisto, who is shown in this adaption as Moneylender. Wagner, who is Faust's student is shown suffering from classic ego-dystonic sexual orientation. This is actually what the whole adaption seems to be about: showing various characters with heavy psychological disorders who are fitted together in the story-line of the legendary character Dr. Faustus. The idea that Sokorov seems to have intended to portray is that the sexual force is the actual driving force of not only Dr. Faustus, but of most people in the sense of a primal force. My personal feeling is that the portrayal of psychological disorders is not helping to give the story-line of the legendary Dr. Faustus more appeal, but is as depiction of the human soul as dark cabinet unique as such and Faustian in itself as adaption. If you enjoy viewing a world of heavily disturbed personalities that are credibly acted out, this is your movie. If you want to see a movie that saves you reading Goethe's Faust, go find another movie. My vote: 6.5 of 10.
The way Sokurov treats this story makes it clear that his characters are all immersed in the day tot day doings, the earthly aspects of our lives, and it is hard or even impossible to escape. He brings it home to us, he gets us involved through his camera and sound, Faust becomes us. The first time I know of that this story was told in such a way that we can actually get inside Faust. Sokurov brings home some intriguing themes. Is Faust's soul maybe already missing from the start? What is our perception of Faust's hell and/or heaven, and how easy are we manipulated? We don't seem to need a lot of arguments and talking to win us over...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Where to begin with a review of Aleksandr Sokurov's Faust? Loosely
based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's 19th century play, this Russian
film resolutely defies description on normal terms. Sokurov adorns his
film with sumptuous visuals throughout but adopts a very idiosyncratic
storytelling technique which will prove baffling for most viewers. This
is not a film to be watched lightly you will need to be wearing your
"intellectual hat" if you're to make it through two and a half hours of
Sokurov's exceptionally erudite movie-making style.
In the 19th century Heinrich Faust (Johannes Zeiler), a tormented scientist, desperately seeks answers to questions that hang tantalisingly beyond his grasp. Often he hires local grave robbers to dig up corpses so that he can dissect them, exploring the inside of the human body to satisfy his gruesome curiosity. What are the various organs for? What makes the body work? Is there such a thing as a soul and where is it to be found? Hopelessly disillusioned by his father's fake cure business, which mostly causes the death of patients rather than their recovery, Faust decides that he has had enough of spending his life chasing enlightenment. He is about to commit suicide when he is interrupted by the arrival of devilish deformed racketeer Mauricius (Anton Adasinsky). Mauricius leads Faust on a grotesque tour of the town, taking him into the underbelly of the community and tempting him with various sinful pleasures. He manipulates Faust at every opportunity, involving him in indulgence, lust and murder. Soon Faust finds himself infatuated with young washer-woman Margarete (Isolda Dychauk), and Mauricius eventually reveals that Faust can have her if he agrees to sign away his soul.
The film is remarkable to look at, with an array of amazing sets and locations beautifully captured by cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel. The characters consist of a gallery of peasants, rogues and freaks, all performed evocatively enough by the actors but too obscurely written for the audience to truly identify with them. Indeed, therein lies the main fault with Faust it's not just the characters but the story itself that is too obscurely drawn for the film's own good. Faust won considerable admiration on the international circuit, crowning its achievements by becoming the recipient of the prestigious Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. It certainly has its strengths, such as the splendidly creepy performance of Adasinsky as the story's Mephistopheles figure, and the wonderfully evocative photography. However, one would have to question whether the film deserves to have been showered with the accolades that it has received. Things like confusing subtitling, perplexing dialogue and unclear story development drag it down somewhat and make one wonder quite why it has earned such towering praise. Having said that, Faust is worth a look, especially if you are interested in Faustian literature (e.g. Goethe's play, Thomas Mann's novel, or even the original Elizabethan play Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe). Just be sure to prepare yourself in advance for a very heavy-going experience and don't allow yourself to anticipate some sort of extraordinary experience as promised by the glowing reviews. A life-changing, mind-blowing masterpiece, no. A flawed but interesting Gothic melodrama, yes.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sokurov is in a very different line of business from Goethe. No ennobling Faust's motives here, no redemption thanks to beauty or God's grace. The spectator is cast down onto a greasy, grimy and smelly small-town world where a cynical Dr. Faust states at once that he has not found any soul when dissecting people's bodies. Material problems suffocate his thirst for knowledge, so the tempting devil is the town's moneylender (a character who does not believe in eternal good but believes in eternal evil). Faust lets himself be seduced with only formal protest and does not care a jot about signing his soul away, when the deal is at last offered; but, as he keeps saying, "for this, you must give me more". Margarethe is not enough, meeting the dead is not enough, understanding nature's work is not enough; Faust goes on, apparently to nowhere. It is a visually straining experience, but also enticing in retrospect.
Faust has quite rightly fallen under everyone's radar. I had never
heard of it, until I saw it in a list someone made. It looked
interesting, and then I read that it made one of my all time favourite
directors, Darren Aronofsky cry. He has also infamously stated that
Faust is the kind of film that has the power to change your life, or
something along those lines. I then watched the trailer and it looked
intense, powerful and not too much unlike Darren's own operatic
masterpiece, Black Swan, which happens to be possibly my favourite film
of all time. Thus of course I was sold. I bought the film on blu ray
for £6.26 and was extremely excited to give it a watch. I went into
Faust very open-minded. More than open-minded because I was honestly
looking forward to it, I was expecting a beautifully intense and
dream-like film, but unfortunately that is not what I received.
The highest point in Faust is the brilliant opening shot which gracefully glides through the sky, where a mirror is bizarrely floating. We then pass underneath the clouds to reveal some awesome mountains and a village. It's a brilliant shot, reminiscent of Baz Luhrman's Moulin Rouge! We then get a nice close-up of a dead man's penis and some grisly depictions of an autopsy. It's here that the film slowly goes downhill, or rather curiously meanders down a dull path which should hopefully cure anyone of insomnia. A lot of reviewers seem concerned that the film is not a direct re-telling of the Faust legend. Unluckily for me, I have never read or seen anything to do with Goethe's Faust, which is a shame because it may have helped me to understand what was going on, as I was sometimes lost.
My first problem with the film is that it has been unnecessarily boxed up. By this I mean that the film has black bands either side of the screen, which makes it more difficult to appreciate one of it's biggest redeeming features, the visuals. I don't see the point in doing this, unless it's only on the UK blu ray version of the film, which by the way, is not blu ray quality! It's also very easy to get lost in the film, and not in a good David Lynch kind of way, but a tedious way. I watch a lot of subtitled films, because I have a passion for foreign cinema, but even I found it difficult to keep up with. Someone is always talking at quite a brisk pace, meaning that you've got to keep up with the subtitles, meaning that a lot of the visuals get lost. The dialogue is also quite boringly pretentious with talks about philosophy and the like.
However, if you strip back the story of the film there really isn't too much to it. It's just about a man who befriends an old man (who I think is supposed to be the devil) and he randomly falls for a young bereaved woman, and decides to sign his soul away in order to spend a night with her. But for some reason the film has been ludicrously padded out to 2 hours 20 minutes (it feels longer). Much of the film just follows Faust as he plods around with the devil, who rambles on for non-stop about things I don't entirely understand. It's the walking equivalent to a road movie, only nothing very interesting happens. I found much of it very boring, but I stuck with it.
Faust isn't all bad though. It's at its most interesting when it's using surrealism to a bizarre and sometime unsettling effect. There's a monkey on the moon, an old man with a body like Danny De Vito in Batman Returns and a small person in a jar made from the liver of a donkey. Unfortunately these moments are few and far between. The film is much more interesting in lecturing the audience through boring characters who don't really develop or interest in any way. The film is also very often fantastic to look at. I loved how the film looked like it had all the colours drained from it and the locations were rich with period detail. The costumes were also lavish. The production values are actually quite excellent for an unknown German film. Unfortunately the screenplay isn't.
Faust isn't the most boring film I've ever seen, but then again you're reading a review written by a poor chap who has sat through such cinematic stimulation as Import/Export and Uzak. Two of the most boring films on the planet. Faust doesn't come close to the level of boredom they caused, but if you've seen them then you'll know that that really isn't saying a lot. Faust is boring and has little plot or characters that capture your attention. It does have sporadic moments of creativity and surrealism, but there aren't enough of these moments to warrant it being watched. I think it's a film strictly for pseuds. Unfortunately I failed to find it intense, powerful or life changing. Ironically Faust is a film with no soul, or perhaps that's the point. I don't know. All I know is that I wasted £6.
it is not the best Faust adaptation. the form is different, the Sokurov ambition to create his story is obvious, the images are pieces from same material of others movies by him. but it is far to be the worst adaptation. short, the lead character of film is the director. and this character is Mephisto in clothes of Faust. the dark scenes, the atmosphere, the dialogs, the Georgian young man or Isolda Dychauk as Renaissance Madonna/Margareta, the first scene and the last, each is letter of a letter who desire say more than its text. a profound film and not uninspired game with a delicate subject. good performance, interesting presence of Hanna Schygulla, smart manner to translate to present the Goethe drama. but , more than philosophic movie, it is a too complicated labyrinth. the ambition is to impress with entire force. but something missing. maybe, the soul.
I liked this film, but I had some trouble connecting with it.
It's sort of mannered, and the artifice is right out there in front. The film's style tended to make me scurry around, looking for clues about some specific didactic message in the film. I got the gist, I think, but in a lot of ways it felt like a puzzle that I didn't solve. Which is not an altogether pleasant experience.
In a lot of ways, the film felt sort of dreamlike. Sometimes I'll have a dream that I'm sure meant something, but exactly how the various details of the dream contribute to the larger message is hard to say.
I was reminded of something a Russian friend told me once. She said that you have to watch out for countries with "souls". When people talk about the "Russian Soul", be careful.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Faust shows its intentions from the very first shot, as the camera
plunges from the height of the sky to a small house in a rural town,
and ends up zooming on the penis of a corpse dissected in an autopsy.
In his retelling of one of the most famous tales of western literature,
director Sokurov plays with symbols juxtaposing spiritual and worldly,
water (associated with Margarete) and earth, sacred and profane,
sterility and fertility.
See also how the film plays with space: indoor location are overcrowded and claustrophobic, the town a labyrinth of mud and bricks, the forest surrounding it uncannily resembling Doré's paintings for Dante's Comedy. Only when Margarete appears (and at the very end), everything become less asphyctic. The result is an insidious, subtly disquieting movie.
The occasional heavy-handed, distracting symbolism (the egg, the homunculus) is redeemed by magnificent performances by the three leads. As Faust, Johannes Zeiler is exceptional in his vivid humanity, torn between sensuality and spirituality; as the object of his passion, gorgeous Isolda Dychauk gives a star-making turn. Anton Adasinsky as the "Moneylender" (the name Mephistopheles is never mentioned) is unctuous, porcine, whiny and malevolent, in a performance which defies all expectations for this kind of character and is all the more unsettling for that.
|Page 1 of 2:|| |
|Parents Guide||Official site||Plot keywords|
|Main details||Your user reviews||Your vote history|