ⓘ Faust (2011 film)

Faust (2011 film)

ⓘ Faust (2011 film)

Faust is a 2011 Russian film directed by Alexander Sokurov. Set in the 19th century, it is a free interpretation of the Faust legend and its respective literary adaptations by both Johann Wolfgang von Goethe as well as Thomas Mann. The dialogue is in German. The film won the Golden Lion at the 68th Venice International Film Festival. At the 2012 Russian Guild of Film Critics Awards the film was awarded the prizes for Best Film, Best Director, Best Script and Best Male Supporting Actor.


1. Plot

Heinrich Faust Johannes Zeiler is driven by his longing for enlightenment. He seeks to understand the very nature of life and how it makes the world go round. Driven by his burning desire for cognition, he even unearths corpses and rummages in their guts just to localize the home of the soul.

While he keeps on telling himself "in the beginning was the word", he gets to know the racketeer Mauricius Anton Adassinsky, playing a worldly version of Mephistopheles, who eventually contradicts him: "In the beginning was the deed". In spite of being amorphic, Mauricius considers himself an Ubermensch. Fausts obscure new friend takes him to the twilight zones of their small town.

In a bath, his attention is caught by the young Margarete Isolda Dychauk, also known as "Gretchen". Later the two new friends are entangled in a pub brawl, Faust accidentally kills Gretchens brother. Faust becomes obsessed with Gretchen, who appears to embody the beauty of blooming life. He indulges himself in thinking that studying her would be reasonable as a part of his research about what makes all the difference between life and death. When the aging Faust has become irreversibly infatuated with Gretchen, Mephistopheles offers him to let him have her.

Faust cannot resist the idea of spending a night with Gretchen. Yet Mauricius demands nothing less than Fausts soul in return. Faust even has to sign the contract with his own blood. Now living on borrowed time, Faust can hit on Gretchen, but he is haunted by penitence and fear. Finally Faust cannot bear Mauricius nihilistic comments anymore. Overwhelmed with wrath, he buries Mauricius under rocks and finds himself lost in the middle of nowhere.


2. Cast

  • Florian Brueckner as Valentin
  • Anton Adasinsky as Moneylender Mephistopheles
  • Isolda Dychauk as Gretchen
  • Johannes Zeiler as Faust
  • Sigurdur Skulasson as Fausts father
  • Georg Friedrich as Wagner
  • Eva-Maria Kurz as Fausts cook
  • Maxim Mehmet as Valentins friend
  • Antje Lewald as Gretchens mother
  • Hanna Schygulla as the Moneylenderswife

3. Themes

The film is the final part in a series of films where Alexander Sokurov explores the corrupting effects of power. The previous installments are three biographical dramas: about Adolf Hitler in Moloch from 1999, Vladimir Lenin in Taurus from 2001, and the Japanese emperor Hirohito in The Sun from 2005. Producer Andrey Sigle said about Faust: "The film has no particular relevance to contemporary events in the world – it is set in the early 19th century – but reflects Sokurovs enduring attempts to understand man and his inner forces." Beyond the themes within the actual film, the project also had a political dimension. Sigle said: "The film is a big Russian cultural project and for Putin is very important. He saw it as a film that can introduce the Russian mentality into European culture; to promote integration between Russian and European culture."


4. Production

The project, described in 2005 as "loosely based on works by Goethe and Thomas Mann", was announced by Sokurov in 2005 as "a very colourful, elegant picture with a lot of Strauss music and a smell of chocolate." The eight-million euro film was produced by the St. Petersburg-based company Proline Film and received support from the Mass Media Support Fund of Russia.

Filming started 17 August 2009 in the Czech Republic, where it continued for two months. Locations included the castles of Tocnik, Lipnice nad Sazavou and Ledec, as well as the town Kutna Hora. Studio scenes were shot at Barrandov Studios in Prague. Photography also took place in Germany. In October the team moved to Iceland for several days of filming resulting in some astonishing shots of geysers.


5. Release

The film premiered on 8 September 2011 in competition at the 68th Venice International Film Festival. Three days later it was screened in the Masters section of the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival.


5.1. Release Reception

Jay Weissberg wrote in Variety: "Forget Marlowe, Goethe, Gounod and Murnau, or rather, lay them aside, since the idiosyncratic helmer adds his own spin on the classic legend, and an over-familiarity with Fausts previous incarnations will likely hinder understanding." In a reservation, Weissberg wrote that Sokurovs "established fans" will be "the only audience for this largely impenetrable though undeniably impressive indulgence". Regarding the visuals, he noted the unexpected collaboration between the cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel and Sokurov, and wrote: "hile the stillness that marks the first films of his quartet self-lensed is little in evidence, visuals here are striking in their mottled gray tonalities. The influence of Flemish and Dutch painting on Sokurovs work has never been clearer than in Faust, with its deep debt to the witchcraft paintings of artists such as David Teniers and Herri met de Bles."

Manohla Dargis of The New York Times wrote: ".and bliss out the next on the delirium that is" Faust,” the latest from Alexander Sokurov" Russian Ark”. An eccentric interpretation of the Goethe play," Faust” is mesmerizing, at times predictably if divertingly bewildering and beautiful, with images that burn into your memory, like that of an embracing couple falling into a lake in a vision of desire and the abyss that invokes" L’Atalante” but is definitely Sokurovian."

At the closing ceremony of the Venice Film Festival, Faust was honoured with the festivals highest prize for best film, the Golden Lion. The jury president was the American filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, who said when he presented the winner: "There are some films that make you cry, there are some films that make you laugh, there are some films that change you forever after you see them; and this is one of them."

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