Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Alexander Sokurov's Cinema of the Soul

They call me don don Vermicelli (serious hat on)

As a great admirer of the films of Alexander Sokurov it was with anticipation that I sat down to watch his 1997 film Mother and Son. His film is quite literally stunning, his ingenious use of lenses and a muted colour palate to create a world at once recognisable as our own but also an ethereal dream-scape is testament to his ability to truly 'create' in cinema. Mother and Son is a film with virtually no plot other than a son caring for his dying mother. In my opinion this is film as it should be, Sokurov doesn't try to tell us a story or even study characters, his film is elemental and sensual what he does is show us not only the inner life of the two characters but his own. What we see in the images of the natural world and of these characters faces, hands and bodies is also their inner selves rendered visible, the wind, trees and skies are their fears, sorrows, hopes and joys. Sokurov's synthesis of content and form is utterly flawless, the rhythm of the film is something like meditation. Sokurov has often been compared to Andrei Tarkovsky mostly erroneously, based on the fact that they are both concerned with similar themes and indeed knew each other, Tarkovsky's influence though can be felt in this film more so than Sokurov's others, especially in the way he allows the film to breathe and allows it to unfold itself without being artificially forced. Both directors rather than using images to create a film, use a film to create images, it is the flow and movement of these images that create cinematic truth and elevate cinema to something 'real'. Watching Mother and Son I am reminded of Werner Herzog when he talks about creating, 'landscapes of the mind' and that cinema is the search for, 'an ecstatic truth'. In Mother and Son, Sokurov creates landscapes of the soul, in such a way that the actors like in Robert Bresson's films do not 'act' but simply 'are' the characters in front of your eyes. For me it is undoubtedly his masterpiece (so far), it is the kind of film that the cinema exists to show.

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