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September 16, 2014



Alexander Sukurov - 2011
Kino Lorber BD Region A

Winning the top prize at a film festival doesn't guarantee very much, if it ever did. Winning at the the 2011 edition of the Venice Film Festival didn't do much for the other winners, as the buzz on Michael Fassbender's exposed penis in Shame eclipsed everything else. After that, Alexander Sukurov's film made a couple more festival appearances, and only recently has been made available on home video, with a new blu-ray release.

This is not an easy film to watch like Russian Ark, although like that film, Sukurov reframes a good part of the narrative as a constant journey. The film takes its inspiration from Geothe's version, with a setting in early 19th Century Germany. Except for part near the end, Sukurov dispenses with the more fantastic elements of the story. The effect is that Sukurov keeps the essence of story, with the more literal aspects tossed aside in favor of a more abstract interpretation.

Where there is a fantasy element is in the very beginning, an opening shot that resembles the kind of special effects work for something like Frank Capra's version of Lost Horizon. The image is in a hard matte 1.33:1, with most of the colors desaturated to give the film something of the monochromatic look of an older movie. There are a couple of moments when parts of the film are specially tinted, not quite what one would see in some films from the silent era, but close enough. Some of the imagery, especially those scenes in the crowded town, seem inspired by the paintings of Pieter Bruegel. Sukurov is probably well aware of his own similarities to his character, from having the film made in no small part due to the intercession of Vladimir Putin, as well as being a filmmaker who chooses to work on his own terms with total disregard for commercial demands.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at September 16, 2014 07:46 AM