Entries tagged with “Faust”.

I came to know quite late the works of the Russian director Alexander Sokurov, and I cannot say I know them well today either. The first one I have seen was Russian Ark, a splendid exercise in virtuosity, composition and visual beauty, but lacking almost completely any epic structure. Next came the 3rd film in his tetralogy about men and power, The Sun which had emperor Hirohito in his days of defeat at the end of WWII as main hero. Now I have seen the 4th film in the series, a very different, special and personal version of the story of Faust. I am yet to see the first two films in the same series which deal with the portraits of Hitler and Lenin, as well as other of his works that drew the attention of audiences and critics like ‘Father and Son’. So the impressions here are to be seen as partial notes on my route of better knowing one of the major artists in modern cinema. I am yet to form a dependency for his work or to declare admiration for the director, but I may get there some day.


sursa http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1437357/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1437357/


On many respects this ‘Faust’ is close to ‘Russian Ark’. It is one of the most beautiful and complex pieces of visual art that I have seen lately and I cannot skip mentioning here in this context the name of the director of photography Bruno Delbonnel author of such other wonderfully filmed works like ‘Amélie‘ or ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince‘. Sokurov creates a world of his own with hundred of characters, costumes, and behaviors studied and acted to the smallest detail. The world is a synthesis not only of the German world at the time Goethe wrote the original story but of all that was Europe from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. It can happen and it actually happens at any of the moments in that period.

Sokurov takes inspiration from the work of Goethe but does not follow it closely. This film is certainly not Goethe’s Faust, it is at best ‘inspired’ by it. It is Sokurov’s Faust before all – a work about a man, a scientist and a philosopher searching for the sense of life, mired by an incarnation of the Devil into knowing the savage real world and the wild people who populate it, choosing beauty in the person of a beautiful girl, selling the soul he does not believe it exists in order to spend a night with her, and eventually revolting against the payment he signed for. A more human Faust than in most of the other versions we know.


(video source Movieclips Film Festivals & Indie Films)


If this Faust was only a video art work I would have completely fell under its spell. It does have however a narrative dimension, and this is where I found the pace and the style unnecessarily complicated, and the usage of dialog too heavy to follow easily and to be a pleasant experience for the viewers. Acting on the other hand is exquisite – is a Faust torn between the desire to conquer the universe by understanding its mechanics and the passion that burns up his human shell, Russian actor is amazing as the ugly sub-human Moneylender who opens the door to Faust’s meeting with the ugliness of the world, and the contrasting as a young botticellian Margarete who descends directly from Vermeer’s paintings. This is one of these movies where the attention is drawn at any moment by visuals, and when it ends you tell yourself that you must have missed many of the hidden and deeper ideas. This may be true, but not completely, as Sokurov seems to be one of those directors who love to keep some of the details explained for himself only, assuming that he knows them at all.

The second performance this year in the New Israeli Opera subscription was Gounod’s ‘Faust’. It is my preferred work by Gounod, the very typical example of the French Grand Opera at its best. It’s a story of contrast and absence and the title may be mistaken. The libretto inspired by Goethe does not place Faust in the center of the story, and actually all the reward and penitence drama is cut short to make out of Marguerite the principal heroine, one of the greatest tragical feminine characters in the history of opera. Faust’s tenor part although not deprived of a few great musical moments is only one point in musical triangle which offers space for  the Margeurite’s soprano and Mephistopheles’ bass parts to conduct the principal musical dialog in the drama. It also is one of the better and most coherent stories in the grand opera history. Despite of its five acts and more than three hours  ‘Faust’ is very well built dramatically, has almost no dead or repetitive moments, and leads the audience to the redeeming finale. It’s a moralistic ending were death and tragedy also mean salvation. While the Devil is almost permanently present on stage for the duration of the story, it is the invisible God that has eventually the upper hand.

The current staging is directed by Paul-Emile Fourny, the general and artistic director of the Opera of Nice, and the result is more than satisfying. With help from set designer Poppi Ranchetti, Fourny localizes the action of the timeless story in the European  landscape of the end of the 19th century, so that the wars connotation and the ambiguous French and German balance receive an very exact political and historical connotation, in a dark post-Gothic and almost mono-chromatic atmosphere.  The cast of singers is extremely well balanced, maybe the best balanced cast that I have seen on the stage of the NIO in many years. Paata Burchuladze is a favorite of the Israeli audiences who love him and whom he loves, and the chemistry between him and the public compensates for the slightly fading vocal capabilities.  The Swiss soprano Noemi Nadelmann who was a sensible and impressive Margueritte, has a very pleasant and well rounded voice that fit well in the dimensions of the character. American tenor Scott Piper sang a fair Faust, while Israeli Shira Raz and Georgian Stella Grigorian had smaller but just to the point performances that made us wish to hear them more and in more extensive roles. The young conductor Omer Welber who at the age of less than 30 became house director of the opera orchestra (and Rishon LeZion symphony orchestra) led well the musical part in one of the good opera evenings of the season.