Faust (★★★★ Empire Review)

FaustSquareRussian writer-director Aleksandr Sokurov won Venice’s coveted Golden Lion for this extraordinarily bleak study of human frailty, a far cry from the lavish spectacle of his one-take wonder, Russian Ark. Despite being subtitled “after Johann Wolfgang von Goethe”, this is no mere adaptation of the author’s famous novel, based on the German legend, about a doctor who trades his soul to Mephistopheles in return for earthly pleasures. Clearly no more interested in a reductive rendering of literature into film form than F.W. Murnau, Sokurov rewrites the story wholesale, re-imagining Dr Faust (Johannes Zeiler) as anonymous and poverty-stricken, all too willing to be taken in by a disfigured moneylender (Anton Adasinsky) with vague promises to feed his various appetites. Although ostensibly set in Germany around the time of the novel’s publication, its relentless sense of ennui, desolation and hopelessness is a timeless, even post-apocalyptic vision of the human condition. ★★★★

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