REVIEW BY: Jack Jones
RELEASED: May 11
Faust is Alexander Sokurov’s curtain closer on a tetralogy of films that study the corruptive influence of power, and his own take on the legend of Faust is as visually provocative a film as you are likely to see.
After tackling Hitler in Moloch, Lenin in Taurus and Hirohito in The Sun, there are few people better qualified to visualise the disaffected German scholar who made a pact with the devil himself.
From Goethe’s own version of the Faust to Thomas Mann’s Doktor Faustus are among many different incarnations, the madcap Russian visualist Sokurov offers his own, unique findings.
Heinrich Faust (Johannes Zeiler), dissects corpses in his desire to further his enlightenment of the human soul, before being led astray by a mysterious moneylender (Anton Adasinsky). When a pure, vital young girl infatuates the tormented Faust, the demonic moneylender offers to take his soul in return for one night with her.
Though this is the crux of Sokurov’s Faust, the film is defined by the director’s unwavering desire to venture forward into the vast world he has created. Even when the film feels hectic and discombobulated, Sokurov offers such a large serving of delirium and unpredictability that it would feel churlish not to find enjoyment in this, even when Sokurov’s wanderings can feel aimless.
Even though Sokurov sacrifices plot in favour of exuding as much visual prowess as he can muster, there are several uncompromising moments that will jolt you at their sheer absurdity; it’s if we’ve been transported into a mixture of David Lynch’s surrealism and David Cronenberg’s warped body horror.
Some will see a visual comparison to Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, and it comes as no surprise the mutual appreciation of each other’s striking work resulted in Faust receiving the Best Film at Venice when Aronofsky was Jury President.
Perplexing, mystifying and verging on the outright bonkers; this is an incarnation of Faust to savour.