Aleksandr Sokurov  

Russian cult and art-house director. His movies usually contain one idea stretched to a long movie, exploring a subject while meandering through various obscure historical, artistic or sociological details rather than feeding you a plot and insights. The movies have a very slow, meditative pacing in which to watch, feel and learn the movie, like Tarkovsky, and he sometimes makes movies that are mostly concerned with historical visuals, feelings and mood. These are similar to his many documentaries, many of which deal with history (especially Russian, Communist and Fascist), music, art, and a series of elegies consisting of dreamy voyages through historical images, footage, art and symbols. While his later movies tend to be more touching and simple, his early movies were more challenging, often using abstraction and symbolism, experimental cinematography and structure, with strange characters, and artsy, meandering, obscure meditations, all making him feel more enigmatic than he really is. Now famous for his Russian Ark stunt, a full-length movie consisting of a single take with thousands of extras and extravagant sets. This page deals mainly with these earlier and stranger creations.

Of Some Interest

Days of Eclipse, The  
An early, intriguing, but unrewarding effort from Sokurov. A doctor is posted in a remote village where his looks, approaches, medicines and ideas are all alien to the locals and their strange customs: One man swallows needles but they aren't found in X-Rays, another man keeps a huge snake as a pet, etc. The feeling of uselessness and meaninglessness as well as the heat cause existential crises and hallucinations: A dead man talks to him, and a strange all-knowing young boy appears at his doorstep looking for a cure. Beautifully filmed, meandering, strange and punishingly slow, but not as rewarding as Tarkovsky.

Sokurov's take on the Faust tale is both a fascinatingly sordid re-interpretation as well as a visually rich, flowing vision of 19th Century Germany. The devilish Mephistopheles creature here is a grubby, weird and hideously old 'moneylender' with a disarming air of decrepitude, weakness and black humor, but also a constantly scheming mind. He may make a very noisy evacuation in a church bathroom one minute, then make wine miraculously come out of a wall the next. He causes havoc with his deformed centuries-old body in a bath full of working women, and tricks Faust into doing worse and worse things before anyone realizes what is happening. Faust is the usual poor alchemist seeking truth and the soul, losing his soul through ambition, and they wander between many rich locations while discussing numerous topics. Also features a couple of throwaway Sokurov-style surreal scenes of old-school superstition mixing with science, such as a gynecologist pulling a cooked egg out of a woman, and a monkey on the moon. The final scenes of hell are just... strange, seamlessly flowing from reality like a dream. Art-house, eccentric and auteurist through and through.


Lonely Human Voice, The  
Completely impenetrable and chaotic early creation from Sokurov that presents snippets of various relationships between parent and child, husband and wife, man and death. People interact slowly with banal dialogue, death is shrugged off often, and seemingly random imagery is spliced throughout the movie with themes of war, religion, men at work and physical labor, etc. Probably a poetic montage that is supposed to come together as a meditation on the human condition, but I got nothing out of it. A cult, over-praised item.

Mournful Unconcern  
An insane adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's Heartbreak House. Originally, the play is about a group of cultured but priggish, silly, bumbling people who go to a party while WWI breaks out, thus making fun of British society and leadership as the world comes to an end. The movie features some lunatics who blab randomly about any subject including their marital intentions, dynamite, ideals and politics, have strict rules about kimonos, dance in silly ways, hide in a moss-covered river in masks, sleep in a baby's crib, perform an ad-hoc autopsy, play with their weird pets, talk to their piano, play naked hide-and-seek, etc. All the while there is a war going on right next to their house and this is spliced together with documentary footage of Mr Shaw, war footage, footage of wild African nature and culture. It's like an insane Ken Russell movie only without the energy and wild entertainment, and it completely loses touch with the satire, replacing it with an artsy insanity.

Save and Protect  
Another stranger early work by Sokurov. Madame Bovary is explored through slow-moving scenes and postcard images, like artistic, pensive, scattered impressions of the novel. 3-hours is way too long for this however, and the movie doesn't develop or reward, unless you are a Sokurov cultist who just likes the mood and images. Emma Bovary is the protagonist trying to escape the emptiness of her life with random pursuits and many sexual flings while growing weary of her husband and slowly falling apart. In Sokurov's artistic mind, he converts the characters into strangely behaving archetypes, the operation on the man's clubfoot is a strange affair involving a quick slice and a big shoe box, flies are everywhere in opposition to the attempted sophistication of the characters, and Emma talks French to her Russian friends just because she needs to. And then there's the sex, fling after boring fling with long takes of nudity as Emma sleeps with everyone in town.

1999- by The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre Table of Contents