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?
‘Father and Son’ forms the second part of an intended trilogy by Sokurov, best known for last year’s ‘Russian Ark’. While the first instalment, ‘Mother & Son’ (1997), unfolded slowly amid verdant meadows, ‘Father and Son’ takes place in a fuggy flat in an anonymous city so dense with buildings that father (Andrey Schetinin) and son (Aleksey Neymyshev) visit their neighbour by traversing a plank placed vertiginously between two windows.
This precipitous jaunt is typical of the macho sparring between the son, who is on the cusp of manhood, and the father, who, despite being incredibly fit, has retired from the military and will soon face the decline of middle age. Their frequent embraces betray affection and entrapment in equal measure. Although son Alexi, a cadet in training, longs to break free, he is hampered by his puppy-eyed neediness and Oedipal nightmares. So they exercise, play football on the neighbour’s roof and talk about how Alexi looks like his dead mother. Tchaikovsky – he of the vexed relationship with both his fatherland and sexuality – plays through a crackly radio in the background.
A fatherless young man appears to introduce a note of jealousy into the father-son bond. We learn that his own father, also in the military, died in a helicopter crash; while Alexi’s father grieves over the event, a model helicopter dangles in the foreground, barely within the frame. This odd, slightly comic detail is one way in which the film achieves a pictorial, rather than narrative, rhythm.
The cinematography – shafts of ochre light on knick-knacks; damp and distorted dream sequences; outdoor scenes in a misty pink glow – gives the film a rich, sensual shimmer. Sokurov alludes to Christ, Lear and The Prodigal Son, it seems, to replace these tales of sacrifice and punishment with a lush snapshot of fatherly love. More emotional situation than story, the film is a gorgeous, crepuscular dream.
Subtitlesd:English (idx, sub)