Aleksandr Sokurov

Aleksandr Sokurov – Mariya aka Maria (1988)

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Aleksandr Sokurov creates a visually poetic, elegant, and unforgettable synthesis of art and life in Mariya. The lush and textural initial sequence, shot using color film, presents the austere life of the titular Mariya – a robust, genial, and hard-working middle-aged collective farmer with an engaging smile – during an arduous flax harvest season in the summer of 1975: operating heavy machinery, sharing a meal at a communal table with fellow workers, visiting her young son’s grave, enjoying a lazy afternoon by the lake with her family on her day off, and proudly (and uninhibitedly) describing her responsibilities and work ethic before the camera.
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Aleksandr Sokurov – Otets i syn AKA Father and Son (2003)

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Plot:
Father (Andrej Shetinin) and Son (Alexei Nejmyshev) live together in a rooftop apartment. They have lived alone for years in their own private world, full of memories and daily rituals. Sometimes they seem like brothers. Sometimes even like lovers. Following in his father’s footsteps, Alexei attends military school. He likes sports, tends to be irresponsible and has problems with his girlfriend. She is jealous of Alexei’s close relationship with his father. Despite knowing that all sons must one day live their own lives, Alexei is conflicted. Alexei’s father knows he should maybe accept a better job in another city, maybe search for a new wife. But who will ease the pain of Alexei’s nightmares? Read More »

Aleksandr Sokurov – The Dialogues with Solzhenitsyn (1999)

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This is a two-part video portrait of the outstanding Russian writer, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, author of famous novels about the Russian revolution and the acclaimed study of the Soviet concentration camps, “The Gulag Archipelago”. Solzhenitsyn is of more interest to the filmmaker for his attitudes, thoughts and present life, than for his legendary past. Rather than interviewing some important person, Sokurov creates a monumental image before our eyes.

This remarkable portrait shows us the inner world of this great author whilst his outer world is seen merely through several visual landscapes: park, study, library, and the room in which the writer’s wife work. Read More »

Aleksandr Sokurov – Solntse AKA The Sun (2005)

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Plot:
As Japan nears defeat at the end of World War II, Emperor Hirohito starts his day in a bunker underneath the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. A servant reads to him a list of activities for the day, including a meeting with his ministers, marine biology research, and writing his son. Hirohito muses about the impact on such schedules when the Americans arrive but is told that as long as there is a solitary Japanese person living, the Americans will not reach The Emperor. Hirohito replies that he at times feels like he himself will be the last Japanese person left alive. The servant reminds him that he is a deity, not a person, but Hirohito points out that he has a body just like any other man. He later reflects on the causes of the war when dictating observations about a hermit crab, and then about the peace to come when composing a letter to his son. Soon enough General Douglas MacArthur’s personal car is sent to bring him through the ruins of Tokyo for a meeting with the supreme commander Read More »

Aleksandr Sokurov – Tikhiye stranitsy aka Whispering Pages (1994)

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Quote:
‘Whispering Pages’ may be the most dimly lit film ever made. Set to the strains of Mahler, this 1993 film takes place in a city whose streets are rarely penetrated by sunlight. Look hard enough and you’ll discover the world of Dostoevsky, whose Crime and Punishment is the source of whatever scant plot exists in Whispering Pages.

Sokurov is one of the most painterly filmmakers alive, but he’s seldom interested in conventionally pretty imagery (or conveying the same grandeur sought by his former mentor, Andrei Tarkovsky). Instead, Sokurov’s images often seem flat and hollow, with the movie screen’s two-dimensionality emphasized rather than disguised. Some of the images in the shadowy Whispering Pages — like the wizened bureaucrat who covers his face with his newspaper or the prostitutes who wrestle in the street — might as well have been made from woodcuts. Read More »

Aleksandr Sokurov – Mat i syn AKA Mother and Son (1997)

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Quote:
In festival circles, Russian director Alexander Sokurov has long been dubbed the next Andrei Tarkovsky (Solaris, Andrei Rublev), but Mother And Son, his 14th feature, is his first to attract much attention in the U.S. Given the stubborn pacing of the film—which makes everything the famously deliberate Tarkovsky directed look like The Cannonball Run by comparison—it’s hardly surprising that distributors have balked in the past. But once you adjust to Sokurov’s spare effects and measured cutting, the haunting, unforgettable images in Mother And Son leave no doubt as to why he’s considered one of the world’s premier film artists. The clean-lined, economical story concerns an anguished young man (the sad-eyed Alexi Ananishnov) so devoted to his dying mother (Gunrun Geyer) that he refuses to accept the inevitable. Isolated from the rest of society, save for the occasional train passing in the distance, he spends long days carrying her across the idyllic landscape outside their cottage, stalling frequently from the burden. There are times when the action stalls in turn, as Sokurov wipes away the already scant dialogue and movement and the film becomes more like an especially vibrant painting. Using special, hand-painted filters and distorting lenses that flatten the characters against their surroundings (and each other), Sokurov creates a hazy, muted visual texture that lends his melancholy story uncommon intimacy and power. Some have found this cinematic museum piece interminably dull, but for those willing to ride out its eccentricities, Mother And Son is a unique, rewarding experience. Read More »

Aleksandr Sokurov – Krug vtoroy AKA The Second Circle (1990)

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Review from Strictly Film School

Quote:
A solitary figure trudges through the inclement weather of a vast, remote Siberian wilderness. An unyielding gust of wind brings the young man (Pyotr Aleksandrov) to his knees as he attempts to avert the caustic, sustained force of the snowstorm, momentarily obscuring him from view, erased from the harsh and desolate landscape. The stark, monochromatic image of the film then cuts to an ironically appropriate impersonal and nondescript official title sequence, as the premature sound of a knock on a door seemingly intrudes on the necessity to present information on the film’s certification. It is a subtle reminder of life’s evolving process: the intrusive nature and unexpected inevitability of death. The film reopens to a jarring, oddly lit image of the gaunt young man standing by the foot of his father’s bed in a cramped and squalid apartment. The dispatched medical technicians dispassionately confirm his father’s death from natural causes, but explain that they cannot issue a death certificate, pragmatically remarking “You should have placed him in a hospital. Everything would have been easier then.” Left alone in the apartment, the son compassionately observes his father’s inanimate countenance before preparing his father’s body for burial: selecting his best suit, bathing him in the snow in the absence of running water in the apartment, transporting his father’s body to the outpatient clinic for a death certificate examination. Read More »