|'cunningly directed apparently with the sole purpose of alienating anyone who watches it'|
Aleksandr Sokurov's Faust is one of those films cunningly directed apparently with the sole purpose of alienating anyone who watches it. Ratio changes, blurry vision, as many as three people reading lines over the top of one another, no likeable characters and a hard-to-follow plot conspired to make this one of the worst offerings available at Bradford, beautifully projected on IMAX though it was.
Whilst Sokurov's crimes against cinematic enjoyment may be many, the film is notable for one success in the form of Isolda Dychauk as Margarete. Central to the Faust story, Sokurov pauses his fettered collection of on-screen nauseation to shoot the perfectly cast Dychauk in amiable soft focus and pallid lights. It is key that we believe Faust (Johannes Zeiler) will give up everything for her, and believe it we do.
Not that we ever get an insight into how she feels about it, just one of the characterisation mistakes throughout. Whilst Sokurov throws dialogue-laden scene after dialogue-laden scene at us, never does he seem to say much of import, just mumbled lines of mumbo-jumbo, sometimes related to the search for the human soul, something Faust seems to abandon very early doors. Every character seems to be high on something, such is their relaxed and un-guarded nature. Upon wandering in to a female bath house Faust and The Moneylender (Anton Adasinsky) raise not a single eyebrow, much like the point when they show up at a funeral they have helped cause.
There's nothing to attach on to and, after you've experienced Sokurov's style for half an hour, no reason to try. Goethe's legend should have been simple to adapt but the director insists on complicating matters to much too alienating a degree, ending with a series of grotesques (to add to the one revealed at the start) which, like much of the rest of Faust, make no sense.
The whole thing opens with a shot of a man's penis, which ends up being a fitting base metaphor for the level of quality on show.
The 18th Bradford International Film Festival runs from 19th - 29th April at The National Media Museum and several satellite venues in and around Bradford. It includes a European Features competition, the Shine Short Film Award and several major UK premieres and retrospectives.