Torontoist has been acquired by Daily Hive Toronto - Your City. Now. Click here to learn more.



Alexander Sokurov, you devil you.

Alexander Sokurov (Russia, Masters)


Sunday, September 11, 9:45 p.m.

Scotiabank Theatre 3 (259 Richmond Street West)

Tuesday, September 13, 10 a.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 (350 King Street West)

Friday, September 16, 7 p.m.

TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 (350 King Street West)

Opening with a shot of a bloody flaccid penis on a dismembered body, Alexander Sokurov’s Faust doesn’t disappoint. The conclusion to the Russian filmmaker’s “Men of Power” tetralogy, Faust demonstrates Sokurov’s ability to master both realism and surrealism, weaving from a perfectly staged period piece to dream-like sequences saturated in green light, overexposed and shot on a tilted camera. Based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Thomas Mann’s interpretations of dealing with Mephistopheles, Sokurov displays why he belongs in TIFF’s (if not cinema’s) Masters category.

Faust (Johannes Zeiler) is a man of science, though a starving one. After he meets a strange man (Anton Adasinsky) trying to pawn a ring, his destiny is forever altered as he eventually signs away his soul for one night with Gretchen (Isolda Dychauk), a serenely perfect Botticelli beauty.

Faust is at first rooted in the corporality of man, from a corpse’s offal spilled on ground to characters constantly smelling each other, the film’s world seems to be very primordial and concrete. But quickly this is complicated by a surreal bathhouse scene, as nubile and elderly women alike in various stages of undress wash themselves and their clothes. Shot in a saturated soft green light, bodies become almost god-like, things to be worshiped; that is, until the Mephistopheles character undresses. Bloated and wrinkled, his genitals are fixed behind him: he is a misshapen horror that doesn’t belong in the realism from previous scenes. From here the film’s descent into the macabre and bizarre only increases.

Philosophical, daring, and at times humorous (when signing away his soul, Faust pauses to correct the contract’s grammar), Faust may not be an easy text to watch, but it is certainly worth the demands it places on the viewer.