Golden Lion jury head was exuberant in his praise for Alexander Sokurov’s Faust as it won the coveted Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival on Saturday.
“There are some films that make you cry, there are some films that make you laugh, there are some films that change you forever after you see them; and this is one of them,” head of the jury Darren Aaronofsky said as he awarded Sokurov the prize for best film.
“We are all mourning the Russian hockey players, but I am still incredibly happy today,” Sokurov said when receiving the award, adding that it was one of the happiest days for Russian cinema.
Chances were slim
The film was premiered on Thursday. However, Sokurov was downbeat about the film’s chances after the press-showing.
“This film is too serious, and such a loud, glamorous event like the Venice festival is unlikely to adequately evaluate the film,” Sokurov said at the time.
The film’s producer Andrei Sigle said the film deserved to win. “Of course we did not expect to win the Golden Lion, but considering the massive effort put into the film, the depth and seriousness of the thought, I think the win was deserved,” he told Interfax.
Sokurov’s Faust, the work he had been planning for more than 30 years, cannot be seen as a straight interpretation of Goethe’s timeless classic.
Shot in German on location in Czech Republic and Iceland, the film did not have any big Hollywood stars.
Faust was played by German theatrical actor Johannes Zeiler.
The role of Mephistopheles, who in this version was a local moneylender, was played by Anton Adasinsky, head of avant-garde theater Derevo, who lives in Dresden.
The location in Iceland, where the director filmed Faust’s walk on the glacier, was later destroyed by Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption.
Moneylender as Mephistopheles
Sokurov explained his choice to make Mephistopheles a moneylender, rather than the Devil.
“The figure of Satan is given too much meaning. If we think that the Devil is a fallen angel, then I am not sure that we are right. Can a fallen angel be a serious opponent to God? It is a ‘paper cut–out.’ And you can’t be afraid of it. No. The Devil is something else, and I think that it is a game, an attempt to put someone between God and man, someone, who can be blamed for all mistakes,” the director said.
Faust is the fourth film in a tetralogy where the director looks at corruption of power. The previous films were Moloch (about Hitler), Taurus (about Lenin) and The Sun (about Japanese emperor Hirohito).
Sokurov said that he thought Faust was one of the most important characters in world literature.
“What would literature be without Faust? It is a real historical character, like all the other main characters of my tetralogy – Hitler, Lenin, and Emperor Hirohito.”