Faust (LFF, West End Vue 24 October)

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Faust as a character from Dostoevsky...

Before the film began, the lights came up and Ian Christie on behalf of LFF puffed the film and introduced leading actors Isolda Dychauk and Johannes Zeiler.  On working with director Alexander Sokurov, she said that he noticed every smallest movement and he said that he knew where the actor’s inner boundary was.  Ian Christie said that the film was going to last 134 minutes before a proper Q and A and I began to feel panic.

I would have left after three minutes or so if I hadn’t been in the middle of a row.  The action took place in a hilly German town apparently existing in both the 19th century and the Middle Ages where the inhabitants spent their time pushing past each other in narrow openings.  After starting off like Bazarov determined to contract typhus in a dodgy dissection, the Faust of Johannes Zeiler became a character out of Dostoevsky, the hungry and arrogant intellectual.

There were many references to high points of German and Russian culture, especially Caspar David Friedrich (but also Albrecht Durer) visually; and also quotations from Luther and others as well as Goethe.  The Mephistopheles/pawnbroker of Anton Adasinsky had a body that swelled into deformed nothingness and a face reminiscent of Vladimir Putin (that’s the kind of reference I appreciate).

At the end I found that I wouldn’t have objected to another three hours or so to see what more Sokurov could pull up from his subconscious.  But the people all around me who were laughing with relief to get out of the cinema and into the normal unpretentious London rain wouldn’t have agreed…

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