In 2011 much was made of Terrence Malick's Tree Of Life and I couldn't help but think that if there was a place in theaters for that - then why not Faust? Both films have a similar disorienting vibe, deal with vague subjects & issues like; science (on some level) & the origin of life and both films have what many believe to be hidden messages. With Tree Of Life it was the message of Christianity, religion & evangelism whereas with Faust it was apparently a hidden message about Russia’s integration with the rest of Europe (honestly…I don’t see it, but that’s what people are saying).
If I had to describe Faust in one word it would be; dense – the kind of film that you make confused facial expressions at while watching it. On one hand, Faust is a beautiful & rich piece of art that almost feels like a moving painting. The costumes & set designs are excellent...
|an appearance from Fassbinder regular; Hanna Schygulla|
But the beauty of the lead actress; Isolda Dychauk (who plays Gretchen) counters all the roughness & ugliness. Whenever Faust starts to become too much & unbearable her presence (just her face alone) calms the nerves and eases the anxiety that this film may bring on.
Faust might be the oldest and most adapted story in cinema (1926-2011). Every director that’s tackled it has told it in their own unique style. I'd been sitting on an unfinished proper length write-up of Sokurov's Faust for quite some time. Before finishing it off I sought out the original Murnau version and re-watched the Jan Svankmajer version last year at The Museum Of The Moving Image. Apparently there's an adaptation of Faust directed by Brian Yuzna (of Society fame) I still have yet to see. The Mephistopheles character has taken many different forms over the years...
An interesting fact I recently learned about Faust is that it’s actually meant to be part of his “power trilogy" (which makes it a tetralogy I guess) but I honestly don’t see this fairy tale of a film fitting in with his biopics on Hitler (Moloch), Lenin (Taurus) & Hirohito (The Sun). Yes, Faust deals with similar themes & elements as Sokurov’s aforementioned works, like power & and the misuse of it, but Faust is a standalone work in his filmography. Faust pretty much became a misunderstood masterpiece before it even left the festival circuit. It has all the characteristics – a work of art to some and a piece of crap to others, frustrating to sit through yet rewarding at the same time and some attempt at originality.