Winner of the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion, this idiosyncratic and playful reinvention of Goethe’s play marks the return of Aleksandr Sokurov after a four-year absence. The Russian master concludes the “Men of Power” series he initiated in 1999 with Moloch as a tetralogy per the classical Greek prescription—a group of four dramas, the first three tragic and the last satiric. Accordingly, Sokurov’s Faust immediately overthrows Goethe by adopting a broadly comic treatment grounded in scatological touches, slapstick, and a nonstop barrage of dialogue. Mephistopheles (referred to here as the Moneylender and played by Anton Adasinsky) is depicted as a clumsy and ridiculously grotesque figure, while Faust is largely stripped of dignity and gravitas and rendered absurd in Johannes Zeiler’s comically mannered tour de force performance. Reversing and subverting the original in a number of other respects, Sokurov implicitly positions Faust’s craving of knowledge and power (i.e., the Enlightenment) as the source of 20th-century evil, a precursor to the ruthless use of force in the hands/name of Hitler, Lenin, and Hirohito. Distinguished by its elaborate camera movement, intricate production design, and rich location work, this retelling of Faust is by far Sokurov’s most visually delightful film in a long time: yes, Faust is a feast for the eyes.
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