Genre: Fantasy Drama
Director: Aleksandr Sokurov
Starring: Johannes Zeiler, Anton Adasinsky, Isolda Dychauk
Duration: 134 min.
A version of the German legend in which a man sells his soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge.
Faust is a film directed by Aleksandr Sokurov, based loosely on the legend of Faust and its many adaptations including a novel by Yuri Arabov, and the play by Johann Wolfgang Goethe. It premiered at the 2011 Venice International Film Festival where it won the Golden Lion for Best Film.
An adaptation only in name, Sokurov takes the familiar folk legend and twists molds and shapes a story completely his own. A somewhat long winded and definitely challenging tale presented with a strange and ghastly green atmosphere and the frequent use of soft focus and lens distortion, amongst his other usual stylistic tricks.
This version of Faust (Johannes Zeiler), is a poor doctor who struggles even to pay for bread, and finds himself resorting to the town's moneylender, played to perfection by Anton Adasinsky, emanating evil with every step of his fat plodding walk, grotesque mannerisms, and even more repulsive body. Though instead of a greed for knowledge, Sokurov's Faust has much simpler desires which don't become clear until later.
The bulk of the film follows along as the Devil leads Faust on a dreamlike tour through the city, the camera swoops and glides, sometimes distorted like a fun-house mirror and sometimes not, but always sporting a fantastic look made to emulate old photographs with its square vignetted frame and filtered palette of pale greens and greys. The scenes flow almost like a stream of consciousness, with constant movement from the camera and the players, and endless dialog that made me wish I could understand German because at times there was no way the subtitles could capture everything spoken.
Despite the wonderful visuals, which in addition to the flawless cinematography, includes marvelous costume and set design, some startlingly gruesome effects, and a stunning finale shot amidst Iceland's volcanic geysers (if that's what Hell looks like, I wouldn't mind spending eternity there), the incessant chattering and quite often cramped staging (personal space means absolutely nothing to the characters here) does start to get tiresome after awhile.
So it can be a test of patience, but it is still an impressive and rewarding telling and I can definitely see why the Darren Aronofsky led jury gave this boldly realized adult fairy tale the Golden Lion.
— Bonjour Tristesse