Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Faust

Faust is the fourth movie in Alexander Sukorov's tetralogy, following Moloch, Taurus and The Sun, which probably means as little to you as it does to me. Even more confusing, the first three movies are about Hitler, Stalin and Hirohito (respectively), so to close this tetralogy out with a fictional character seems like an odd choice.

I don't really know that it's a tetralogy, though. Maybe he's got seven more movies planned which will put this film in to context. Beats me.

The story, more or less, is the story of Faust as told by Goethe, though I think it's less rather than more. Faust is some sort of learned man, son of a doctor, living in squalid 19th century German conditions, and finding no meaning in life.

Enter the Moneylender. The Moneylender is willing to trade Faust something—whatever he wants, really—for a little something back. A trifle, a trinket, something he's not even using. (And which, it is suggested, he may not even have.)

Faust has nothing. He wants a reason to live, really, to find meaning in existence, to know what to wish for, in essence. He's floundering, until he sees Margarete.

That's when things really go to Hell, metaphorically, before the go to Hell, literally.

This is a very surreal film. It's defined by ennui, but since it's not French it doesn't endorse ennui. It plays an interesting narrative game by having the real-world events of the story seem remote and insignificant, secondary to Faust's interaction with the Moneylender.

All the earthly scenes take place in an amazingly crowded town. Everyone has to squeeze by everyone else, through tiny roads and tinier buildings and narrow hallways. It evokes the silent German Expressionism of movies like Nosferatu and Caligari. Life, it seems to say, is awful.

I kind of wanted to hate it. But it's unusual and entertaining in so many unexpected ways. By the end, you're practically feeling sorry for the Moneylender—whom, it must be remembered, is the Devil, or a devil or perhaps some manner or lesser imp or demon.

And you come to identify with Faust, somehow. There's something pure about him. I mean, he's a 40-year-old dude lusting after an 18-year-old girl, and using sorcery to get her, but, I don't know. There's no malice there.

You gotta focus on it, though. A lot is going on. The subtitles weren't great. The sound has to be just right or it's gonna be just a mess. It was worth it, though, I thought: There's a remarkable empathy in it, which sort of makes me wonder about the previous three films.

The Boy...loved it. I can't really explain that. Or maybe shouldn't. I think he got swept up in it.

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