Critics' Pick

Faust (NR)

Drama 134 November 15, 2013
By Michael Atkinson
A lurching crawl through the moldering, candlelit passages of a pre-hygiene medieval meta-Europe, this new version of the Germanic legend from Russian cine-volcano Alexander Sokurov may be the freakiest gloss this deal-with-the-devil story's ever gotten, down to the ghost-zombies and Icelandic geysers. This Faust closes Sokurov's eccentric, conceptual tetralogy about the corrupting toxicity of power that began 14 years ago with Moloch. But we're far from the psycho-political last-days hysteria of the other films' Hitler, Lenin, and Hirohito scenarios — instead, Sokurov re-creates a breathtaking Bruegel landscape and troubles it with discontented Faust (Johannes Zeiler), who half-desires knowledge, wealth, and the young Margarete (Isolda Dychauk), not necessarily in that order, and sometimes not at all. Enter the Moneylender (Anton Adasinsky), a demon in earthly garb, engaging Faust in protracted negotiations and embroiling him in a variety of accidents and brawls. The movie flows like a pollution-thickened stream, with confrontations and intercourses arising by happenstance, and almost always in a creepy rush of inappropriate Sokurovian groping, nuzzling, stroking, and close-quarters squeezing, all post-dubbed and often shot with distorting lenses. Not that it can't be fun or beautiful -- Sokurov is an imagistic wizard, and the textural oddness consistently offers stunning tableaux, from Faust's first elbow-deep exploration of a corpse's entrails to his climactic embrace with Margarete as they suddenly plunge into a mountain lake, and thereafter share a bed surrounded by lurking ghosts. Busting in on a massive laundry full of semi-dressed washerwomen, Adasinsky's devil drops trou to reveal a lumpy monster body with no genitalia and a penile tail — much to the girls' hilarity.
Aleksandr Sokurov Hanna Schygulla, Isolda Dychauk, Maxim Mehmet, Georg Friedrich, Antoine Monot Jr., Joel Kirby, Eva-Maria Kurz, Katrin Filzen, Johannes Zeiler, Florian Brückner, Florian Brückner Aleksandr Sokurov Andrey Sigle

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