A New Shine on Sokurov

in 56th Cannes Film Festival

by Alin Tasciyan

Alexander Sokurov has a new shine on him. “Father and Son” is very typical of his style yet still different. It is both familiar and interesting enough to encourage watching ‘another’ Sokurov film. It has all the elements you would expect from him plus a new conception, a new aspect.

Sokurov’s cinema is inarguably hermetic. He has a cinematic world of his own. His way of storytelling is unique. He has the heritage of the great Tarkovsky, but he undeniably possesses the Sokurov illusion. The pale beauty of his images create a mysterious orbit that once a cinephile enters into it, he cannot get out. His latest film “Father and Son”, which is the second film of a trilogy began with “Mother and Son”, is more dilated, more willing to accept the spectator inside it. When compared with his recent works such as “Moloch” and “Taurus”, “Father and Son” is much more down to earth. So is its cinematography. Sokurov lets more sunshine in than ever. The beautiful city by the sea is washed in sunlight. His greenish, brownish colours have brightened as if he has blown away the must on them.

“Mother and Son” was set in the embrace of nature. A forest with its solid tree trunks and thousands of leaves dancing in the wind surrounded the holy couple in agony. It breathed out the last breaths of an old woman and transferred the feeling of death to us, whereas “Father and Son” is full of life. A very handsome and healthy father, half – naked for most of the film, takes deep breaths. His beautiful torso is exposed to us as a symbol of human life form.

“Father and Son” has that universal theme: The relationship between father and son. Like that between God and Jesus Christ which the director refers to a couple of times during the film: “A father who loves his son crucifies him. A son who loves his father sacrifices himself for him”.

Yet Sokurov deals with this relationship like a love story. He surprises the audience with the homoerotic sensation of the opening sequence: We see two cuddling male bodies softly moving. We hear two male voices: One heavily breathing, the other trying to soothe him. He softly whispers that it will soon finish. One thinks they are gay lovers. In fact, it is not more than a father trying to calm his son down haunted by a nightmare.

Sokurov’s father and son live together in a small apartment just like a couple. The father has had to resign from the army; the son is a student in the military academy. Like father like son, says the director. What actually happens in the film matters only slightly. They play football on the rooftops looking out to sea. A young man who comes as a guest in their house reveals the untold past. The son’s girlfriend leaves him for an older man, for the father perhaps. They are friends and rivals, enemies and allies. They wrestle and cuddle. They love and hate each other. They live and die for each other. We don’t find out much about the plot, we don’t need to. The plot is insignificant. Sokurov underlines this statement. Nothing is clear yet everything is obvious: It is a celebration of the male conception of the world. A reflection of the patriarchal society, where the existence of women is occasionally necessary. God needed the Virgin to have a son. Then he let him be crucified that they could unite in Eternity. Together they form the Holy Trinity. Their love is divine.