The fascination of 'Faust'

Anton Adasinsky stars as the Moneylender, the Mephistopheles character in writer-director Alexander Sokurov's "Faust."
Anton Adasinsky stars as the Moneylender, the Mephistopheles character in writer-director Alexander Sokurov's "Faust."
Posted: July 05, 2014

Russian film master Alexander Sokurov's acclaimed Men of Power series - Moloch (1999), Taurus (2001), and The Sun (2005) - examine the meaning of power through portraits of three of the modern world's most infamous despots, Hitler, Lenin, and Hirohito.

Conceived as a tetralogy, the series ends with 2011's Faust, now finally available on disc. Reportedly financed with help from Russian premier Vladimir Putin, this lush, layered, visually intoxicating epic is the only entry in the series that's not about a historical figure.

Instead, it plumbs one of the West's most fascinating myths to tease out the psychological conditions for the dictatorial thirst for power.

Few myths have helped define modernity more than the story of Faust, a scholar who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for youth, wealth, power, and/or knowledge. It has fascinated artists from Christopher Marlowe to Richard Wagner and Charles Gounod.

Set during the Middle Ages, Sokurov's film is based on two versions of the tale, Goethe's neo-Romantic play Faust composed in the first few years of the 19th century and Thomas Mann's Doctor Faustus, written in the 1940s during Hitler's reign of terror.

Goethe's Faust has a maniacal thirst for knowledge, Mann's for power. For Sokurov, knowledge is power, and an obsession for obtaining it poses a dangerous temptation to abuse that power.

Despite its philosophical complexity, Sokurov's film is wondrously sensuous, alive, vital, and rounded out with delightful touches of humor and black comedy.

(; $29.95; not rated)

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And don't forget

Catch a fresh season of cartoonist Aaron McGruder's animated adaptation of his brilliant strip The Boondocks Season 4. . . . Michael Peña leads an impressive cast as the titular hero in the biopic Cesar Chavez, due July 22. . . . Without a Trace alum Poppy Montgomery plays a New York police detective with a photographic memory in Unforgettable Season 2. . . . Nicola Pagett ( Upstairs, Downstairs) stars as Leo Tolstoy's heroine in this classic nine-hour mini-series version of Anna Karenina from 1977.

Most titles also available for digital download from major retailers.


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