One of the greatest experience in my life watching a film in a theater was during Nashville Film Festival on 2008, watching Sokurov’s Alexandra on the big screen, one of the few time in my life that I had an experience that I was not just watching a film but living in it.
Today as I heard the news that Sokurov had won the Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival for his latest film, Faust . Although not a firm believers in awards, the news brought a big smile to my face, knowing that this award would make many more exposed to the cinema of Sokurov.
Looking back at my films diary, here are a few films of Sokurov that I wrote a short review on:
Moscow Elegy (Alexander Sokurov, 1988) A nostalgic tribute from a great filmmaker to another, Sokurov’s beautiful and sad poem/essay to Andrie Tarkovsky is perhaps among the greatest documentary to be made about any filmmaker, for it has a life of its own and does not follow any rules or narrative rather it picks up pieces, images and sound, brings them alive to a point that it reaches spiritualism. Both Sokurov and Tarkovsky’s film are pure art that arise in us emotions and feeling that one only experience when encountering a certain truth, it reaches the soul. That is true art: to communicate one’s feeling.
Mother and Son (Alexander Sokurov, 1997) Alexander Sokurov’s masterpiece. After a long wait, I saw it finally, love it. Like watching a painting with movement. A true achievement in the use of minimalism, sound, Cinematography and Gestures. Tolstoy could have made the first and Thoreau the second part.
Moloch (Alexander Sokurov, 1999) Perhaps the first and and only film to portray Hitler as a human like any others, full of complexity. The film is not a typical Sokurov, even though his style dominate the forum of the film. Here we have a fictional portrayal of Hitler, Eva Braun, Goebbels and Bormann, the war is on the background of the film, although there are mentions of it, the film rather focus on a Bunuelian portrayal of relationship between the characters, away from a typical Hollywood film one sees about historical figures.
Elegy of a Voyage (Alexander Sokurov, 2001) In less than 45 minutes, Sokurov take us into a world of sound, image, memory and paintings, we feel everything and we become everything in this film. Full of life, miracles are performed on the screen in front of our eyes, like the unknown narrator, you are making a journey, a a pity I had to watch it on a small screen, this is a film that is made to be watched on a big screen. More than anything, it is a film about memory, life and search into the unknown, the subconscious. It is a visual poem that reminds one of the works of Tarkovsky and Marker, a journey into the world that is half shown and half thought off, the film is shot beautifully through lenses that gives it a dreamy/fogy atmosphere, images that are as powerful as Mother and Son and as beautiful as any paintings, it is no wonder that the film end in a museum in which the camera and the scenes itself becomes painting, Sokurov is a painter that draw with light.Like the narrator, we are taken into a journey that we never know the reason for, all we do is to ask were we are and what are we doing in that place. Visually beautiful among all of his documentaries. The film was commissioned by the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam, they asked Sokurov to look at a work of art in their collection and make a film about it. Hallucinatory, a dream, a wonderful dream.
Alexandra (Alexander Sokurov, 2007) I remember the first time I watched Alexandra on a big screen at Nashville Film Festival on 2008, it was an early morning showing at 10:30, memorized by the film, when I left the theater, I felt that I had discovered something new and wonderful, something that captured a human soul on the screen. Days, Weeks, Month later I kept remembering and talking about the film. Watching it again on a small screen, it still had the same impact, images and sound are what make Alexandra so beautiful, especially the sound, it is very rich. More than a film, it has a feeling of a short novella, one can not help but think of Tolstoy’s stories set among the cossack and in the Caucasus, or the world of Turgev and Chekhov, what they did with their pen, Sokurov does it with a camera. We are taking into a world of men that is shown through the eye of an old woman, we start to notice different character, we know them not as characters that are essentials to the story, for there is no story, but rather they exist in the world of the film as bystanders in the world of Alexandra, Sokurov’s camera does the rest, like sentences from a story, he describe them for us, we notice little details about them. Take the scene in the market, it is among the best example of Sokurov’s attempt of capturing the world of literature, we see and hear little details from Alexandra’s POV, Sokurov never try to manipulate us, rather he present the poetic reality the way it is. There was Mother and Son, then Father and Son, and Alexandra is along that tradition, it is about a Grandmother and a Grandson, the relationship between the two, set in Chechnya, among the camp of Russian soldiers, the film is a mediation about people living in the war torn region, mostly on the side of the Soldiers, but we get a view of the destruction of the towns and the Chechen people, but Sokurov is not a political filmmaker and he does not try to make a war film, rather he makes a masterpiece about the human soul. What we get is a film about an old woman and its worries rather than a film about Russian or Chechens fighting each other.