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Reviews & Ratings for
Faust More at IMDbPro »

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49 out of 54 people found the following review useful:

Where is the soul?

Author: saschakrieger from Germany
9 February 2012

*** 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.

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37 out of 53 people found the following review useful:

"Dramatic and visually exceptional..."

Author: Sindre Kaspersen from Norway
20 January 2012

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 Margarete.

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.

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13 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

unusual to say the least, but catching

Author: altyn from Italy
4 December 2011

*** 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.

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10 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Not Goethe, but a dark cabinet of psychological disorders

Author: enteredapprenticering from Switzerland
2 April 2012

*** 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.

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9 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Absorbing and reasonably interesting Gothic melodrama, somewhat over-rated by a number of gushing critics.

Author: Jonathon Dabell ( from Todmorden, England
21 November 2012

*** 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.

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10 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

The fascination for knowledge, power and lust is brought home to us at our level of living and thinking.

Author: Wim Nijssen
17 October 2012

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...

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Russian-German approach to the famous Goethe tale

Author: Thomas ( from Berlin, Germany
3 April 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The 2011-film Faust was one of the big awards players outside of Hollywood. It is not the first Sokurov movie in German, her made one in 1999 already in a movie series where "Faust" is already the fourth entry. He is one of the most famous Russian directors right now and has been especially present at the Palme d'Or film festival in the past. And he is also a writer for the movies he makes, such as this one. Personally, I feel this film looks much older than not even 5 years ago.

The main character is played by Johannes Zeiler and he looks a bit like Ralph Fiennes. Mephisto (or the Moneylender) has not acted in movies after this one here, but I read he has his own theater, so he's probably pretty active nonetheless. Apart from them, there are several (known) German actors in here, such as Hanna Schygulla or also Antje Lewald who I saw first in the Campers TV show. The film runs for considerably over two hours and is of course about the Goethe work, but still several steps are in-between. It is based on Yuriy Arabov's adaptation and was altered again by Sokurov into the final version. I am not too sure how close it is still to Goethe's work as it's been too long since we had it at school, but the three central characters are obviously all there.

All in all, I was not too impressed and sometimes I even felt it dragged, so I would not really recommend watching it unless you love story and are really curious about this adaptation.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Down in the dumps

Author: interiorday from United States
4 November 2014

It begins with the evisceration of a corpse, and that could be a metaphor for the way this alleged adaptation proceeds - except that Goethe's "Faust" is not dead, only given the dead-letter treatment here. The film's emphasis is on gross, clumsy physicality: you never saw so many actors stumble as they walk, bumping into things and one another; too artless and unfunny for slapstick, the universal jostling is prevented from being laughable by funereal pacing and the array of hangdog faces. Since the Faust figure (Johannes Zeiler) conveys very little in the way of intellect, all that elevates him is that most of the other characters have been made open-mouthed gapers, presumable halfwits. Wit is barred out anyway by the color-palette, all various hues of mud - the surest sign of high-serious intentions in movies nowadays. In exterior shots the sky is overexposed so it shows as a gleamless white blur; the earth is dun-colored, greens are gray-tinged, and reds are virtually absent, on their rare appearance tending to brown, like bloodstained linens oxidizing. The cut of the men's clothing updates the story to several decades after Goethe's time: trousers are worn, rather than breeches and hose. The fabrics are thick, heavy, coarse, and of course dark-dyed and fraying badly. No one could think of playing the dandy here. Strangely, there seems to be no Republic of Letters either. The few characters with intellectual interests neither write nor receive letters; they're isolated from enlightenment and worldly affairs: no one awaits the postman; no one looks at a journal of science or politics or the arts - this is a stupefying omission, as false to the historical period as it would be to Goethe's own. Sokurov's flight from historical particulars strands his Faust: the fable and the character become "timeless" in all the wrong ways. Faust doesn't represent his age's high hopes, or its seeds of self-destruction; but then he doesn't represent our age either. Sealed off in its remoteness, Sokurov's "Faust" is just another - all-too-familiar - sulking, glooming art-house reverie.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

The Devil a dullard...?

Author: poe426 from USA
25 September 2014

FAUST tries a bit too hard at times to shock, or to impress with its technical aspect: the opening close-up of the rotting genitalia of a male cadaver being autopsied pretty much sets the tone; anything goes. Unfortunately, that includes some fairly simple but overused in-camera effects, like the use of distorting lenses (which add absolutely nothing to the meandering narrative and actually detract from the lavish production values). Death, himself, is a bore who waddles around in a rubber fat suit "weighing souls." "Is the world too cramped for you?" someone asks at one point. It's a question I pondered even as I watched this one unfold: having spent far too much of my time watching experimental films and video over the years, I can honestly say that- for ME- the world IS cramped with far too many such films.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

The Doctor and Margarete

Author: petr_sfv
14 November 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Faust shows its intentions from its 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 locations are overcrowded and claustrophobic, the town a labyrinth of mud and bricks, the forest surrounding it uncannily resembles Doré's illustrations of Dante. Only when Margarete appears - and at the very end - sets become less oppressive, 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.


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