Film Review: Faust

Aleksandr Sokurov’s realisation of Goethe’s classic relies upon style and tone rather than narrative to beguile viewers. Faust is overlong, but the film generates a wonderful atmosphere.

Faust is a professor of anatomy who struggles to pay his bills. After his father refuses to help him, Faust encounters a moneylender who seems eager to help. The moneylender shows Faust another side to his world, one which is wrought with temptation. All the moneylender wants in return is just a small thing from the faithless Faust…

Sokurov’s Faust concentrates predominantly on the initial temptation of the professor, rather than the fall out from his decision. Much of the running time is dedicated to the web spun by the moneylender, after the introduction of Faust and his situation. Although the consequences of Faust’s choice become apparent as the film progresses, the outcome of the deal is only fully revealed very late on in the film.

The narrative, however, is secondary to the tone and overall style of Faust. The film creates a wonderful world in an imagined past. Faust is fairy tale-like in its look, reminiscent of Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. The use of colour and lighting is very expressive. Overall, the film conjures imagery of German folklore.

Anton Adasinsky does a commendable job playing the moneylender. His movement and mannerisms are key to the role, and Adasinsky offers a memorable portrayal. Johannes Zeiler is also good Faust; bringing the necessary intensity to the character.

Viewers are likely to lose concentration as the two-hour plus running time can start to drag, Nevertheless, for the most part Faust is a fantastic example of a fairy tale rendering of a classic story.

Faust was screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2011.