The only thing I found typical about this interpretation of Goethe’s epic is that it begins in heaven, or at least the sky, this being the only visual injection of the macro - micro dynamic of the original story. This is really only the story of the man Faust and his metaphysical journey to damnation with his supernatural guide The Moneylender (Mephistopheles). I say ‘supernatural’ with specific intent, as this creature is less a character than a manifestation of the evils of medieval Europe. He is the worst of everyone we experience in the medieval town where Dr Faust resides, and the result is mesmerising!
What bothered me about the screening was the quality of the digital projection. As one would expect from a Sokurov film, the imagery is rich, saturated with references of painting, considered, beautiful, but fleeting (unlike that of say Tarkovsky),the format was distinctly film ratio (square), but the elegant track shots seemed jumpy and distorted to me. It also shut down at one point which I would forgive has it been in film it happens, but shouldn’t with digital scans.
As I said this film is purely from Faust’s perspective (diverging briefly to experience Margarete, and her contempt for her mother, and her journey to church) we’re experiencing his journey, his thoughts, his lust and his damnation. This eliminates a huge amount of the storyline, the faith of Margarete, and Gods hand in it all. The film hence explores themes not done in other adaptations of the story, most intriguing to me being the man made man created by Faust’s student Wagner, a truly disturbing image that has stayed with me since I’ve seen the movie. For this reason, I felt pretty sorry for my friends who’s knowledge of the story is that of the vicarious approximations I used as the conceptual grounding for one of my video pieces. As I said, the loaded decisions and actions of Faust seducing Margarete must have been lost, the macro effect of a micro incident. What gives an idea of a larger consequence of the tale is the music composed by Andrey Sigle. Sinister, dark, minimal, melodic and romantic in style, it gives the film greater depth.
I’m not sure how I feel about this film yet. I think alot of the dialogue upon first watching is lost on me for I was overly seduced by the imagery, I missed alot of the subtitles. I do love the way in which it is like no other interpretation of Faust, no opera, symphony, play, or film deliver anything like this. Medieval society comes alive. Sokurov gives us a multi-sensory experience, sound, smell and sight come into play. Mephistopheles is really the most mature and believable interpretation of the character. However, I do miss the dramatic indulgence I believe one is entitled to evoke when working with this story - not to say this is missing from the film, it would have no place here and ultimately ruin the piece, but I still missed it.
Should I do a rating? Hhhmmm, well I gave it four stars (highest) as a part of the film fest, viewer voting thing, because I don’t think it will get a good response from many people because of the reasons I mentioned above. But no I shan’t give it a real rating, I sense this one is a slow burner, I’ll know how I feel about it in time.