Siberia: BFI London Film Festival Movie Review
Director: Abel Ferrara
Writers: Abel Ferrara, Chris Zois
Producers: Marta Donzelli, Gregorio Paonessa, Philipp Kreuzer, Jörg Schulze, Julio Chavezmontes, Diana Phillips
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Dounia Sichov, Simon McBurney
See more of our BFI London Film Festival Coverage here.
Some films are good, some films are bad, and some films are very much up for debate. Then, there are some films (and their fans) that make you feel like a dumb, artless fool for not “getting” them. Apparently, according to Siberia, I’m a dumb, artless fool. Sorry, Willem Dafoe.
An exploration of the self
I went into Siberia expecting to feel this type of way. Abel Ferrara and Willem Dafoe together was bound to be a heck of a ride. Clint (Dafoe) works in a mountainside tavern and the host of patrons he comes across are far from regular.
An exploration of the self and our deepest, most personal hopes and fears, Siberia is a probing and wildly uncomfortable foray into the the darkest parts of the human psyche. This film was made to make a point, one that, I think, missed me.
That being said, there are parts that I can totally understand. The obvious parts, I dare say. The confrontation of who we are and who we have become in our reflections, and the revisiting of memories long suppressed and misremembered. Then, however, there are parts that passed me by in a monumental way. Siberia feels like when little kids pull at threads on a sweater; absentmindedly pulling to see what will happen. There are bits that weave and work together to function, but there is also a big, messy pile of yarn, too.
A Long and Winding Road
The sweeping panoramic shots of unforgiving wilderness are undeniably beautiful, even after the twentieth time of seeing them. The same can be said for the sound editing, which is sharp and clean among a muddle.
One could argue that if you aren’t cinematically illiterate, like me, Siberia represents a string of isolated snapshots, linked together solely by our troubled protagonist’s trauma and his subsequent battle with the beasts of his past. Imagine dropping a twisted, violent, graphic photo album, but then scooping it back up again with no regard for the order and theme. It’s like that, but with a killer soundtrack.
Willem Dafoe is an enigma wrapped in a mystery wrapped in a tortilla. The only think that makes sense about him is that he doesn’t make sense. There is something quite comforting about that, though. Between the black magic and the sun, Siberia has certainly split audiences. Some are heralding Ferrara’s film as a triumph of surrealist cinematic storytelling. Some, however, see Siberia of a smorgasbord of “somethings” all struggling to stand out. One this is for sure – the film will certainly let you know, loudly, which side of the fence you’re on.
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