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"Faust": Every Single One of Us Has an Adaptation Inside 

Wednesday, Apr 16 2014

Though he's made several other films, director Alexander Sokurov will probably always be most associated with 2002's Russian Ark, which was accomplished in a single unbroken shot. The opening of Sokurov's take on Goethe's Faust hints at a similar kind of fluidity: The camera glides from what may well be heaven down to a city in a spectacular, stormy mountain range, and then fades to an icky closeup of the decaying penis of a cadaver being disemboweled by the title character (Johannes Zeiler), a 19th-century German doctor hoping to find the soul amid the gore. That's the more mundane, grimy level the picture operates on, as the troubled Faust falls in with and eventually sells his soul to a pear-shaped devil (Anton Adasinsky) in the hope of getting a shot at the comely Margarete (Isolda Dychauk). Faust exists in a world of creepy faces and overwhelming dread, and though there aren't any visual effects to speak of after the opening, Sokurov's use of old-school camera techniques such as distorted angles (many shots resemble the geometry of the Rubber Soul cover) and sickly green filters create an environment of hellishness that's never less than unnerving. Sometimes it takes classic tricks to tell the story of the ultimate trickster.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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