Sokurov Wins Prize for ‘Faust’

Sokurov Wins Prize for ‘Faust’

Published: September 14, 2011 (Issue # 1674)


Isolda Dychauk in a scene from Alexander Sokorov’s award-winning ‘Faust.’

VENICE, Italy — Russian director Alexander Sokurov’s “Faust,” a new take on the German legend about the quest for knowledge at all cost, won the Golden Lion prize at the Venice Film Festival on Saturday.

“Faust” tells the tale of a professor, played by Johannes Zeiler, who craves knowledge and sells his soul for the love of Margarete, played by Isolda Dychauk. The Mephistopheles character is played by Anton Adasinsky.

Dense and difficult to watch, “Faust” was nevertheless one of the critics’ top choices among the 23 films in competition at Venice this year. It marks the final chapter in Sokurov’s four-film look at the relationship between man and power that began with “Moloch” in 1999 about Hitler, “Taurus” a year later about Lenin and the 2005 film “The Sun” about Japanese Emperor Hirohito.

At a post-award news conference, Sokurov made an impassioned plea for governments to continue supporting culture with state funds.

“Culture is not a luxury! It is the basis for the development of the society,” he said, adding that he had even raised the issue with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in a phone call just after he won.

“And so I am making an appeal to the Italian minister of culture: Thank you for existing! Insist with all methods you have on keeping culture.”

Sokurov said working with the German cast was one of the most impressive experiences he has had in years, even if he still wonders whether a German director would have been better suited for the task.

“German culture is a fundamental one in Europe,” he said.

Venice’s best actor award went to Michael Fassbender for his portrayal as a sex addict in Steve McQueen’s “Shame,” while the best actress award went to Deanie Ip, who plays an aging domestic servant opposite her master in Hong Kong director Ann Hui’s “A Simple Life.”

The Silver Lion prize for best director went to this year’s surprise entry at the Lido, Beijing-based Shangjun Cai for “People Mountain People Sea.” And the special jury prize went to the Italian-French production “Terraferma,” about the influx of migrants to a tiny Italian island, by Emanuele Crialese.

All contenders at the world’s oldest film festival were world premieres.

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