Father And Son

"Excellent"

Father And Son Review


As a follow-up to his critically hailed, history-spanning Russian Ark, Russian director Aleksandr Sokurov resumes probing the intimate bonds between children and parents with Father and Son, the second of a planned trilogy that began with 1997's Mother and Son. A wistful, ethereal allegory about the ties that inextricably bind men and their male offspring to each other, the film - difficult as it is rewarding - substitutes narrative coherence and dramatic conventions with a rapturously elliptical impressionism. The result is an entrancing dream-state of blended memories, hallucinations, and desires that the director utilizes to exhibit the ways in which a young father (Andrei Shchetinin) and his dutiful son (Aleksei Nejmyshev) learn to cope with the growing realization that their tender relationship must change to survive.

Sokurov begins his film with a collage of nude limbs grabbing, wrestling, contorting, and comforting one another that eventually reveals itself to be the father cradling the son after a nightmare. "You saved me," says the young teen, who - even without the physical resemblance of their unclothed torsos - looks strikingly like his handsome, stout dad. Yet as we soon discover, the son's nightmares have been populated with scenes of him murdering his father. The story's central conflict lies in these disturbing visions, which make up both the beginning and end of the film and, with lyrical obliqueness, portray the father-son union as primary and yet beset by an inevitable, inescapable need for both parties to eventually craft distinct, individual lives.

The father is a widower who, now retired from the military, has yet to find new work or a new wife, clinging instead to his loyal offspring; the son, meanwhile, has followed in his parent's footsteps by joining the army, yet has lost his girlfriend because of his overly close connection to his dad. The son's Oedipal desires - exhibited in gorgeous forest-set dream sequences which are shot with an anamorphic lens that distends the film's sculpted male figures - are a manifestation of his desire to break away from his paternal figure, just as the father's despair over his wife's absence and personal and professional purgatory implies a need to find new life separate from his child. "A father's love crucifies. A loving son lets himself be crucified," the father says, and the Herculean embraces shared by the two vividly illustrate that, for each man, a father's affection for his son entails both protection and succor on the one hand, expectation and duty on the other.

Father and Son is permanently set at dusk, its gauzy, enveloping golden hues (like fading springtime sunlight) recalling the subtle palettes of a Vermeer or Rembrandt portrait. And like Vermeer's early biblical paintings, Sokurov's fascination with the lithe, mythic muscularity of the male form gives the tangential, sometimes frustratingly coded story a majestic timelessness. This sense of the film as a dream-like reverie rather than a realistic treatise is further enforced by Sergei Moshkov's complex sound design - which presents layers of delicate orchestral music, ambient city sounds, and bird chirps and whistles underneath the film's surface dialogue - and the hazy unnamed urban setting that surrounds the father and son. The characters' self-imposed physical and emotional isolation up in their rooftop apartment further highlights their relationship as an increasingly constricting prison from which they must (however, partially or temporarily) escape. Despite the director's pre-release protestations to the contrary, there's an obvious homoerotic subtext to this depiction of the father-son alliance, but excessively concentrating on Sokurov's fondness for the naked male body - just like griping about its plot-free construction - merely distracts from this unique, striking film's poetic expression of the tumultuous emotions shared by a man and his boy at the crossroads of their lives.

Aka Otets i syn.



Father And Son

Facts and Figures

Run time: 97 mins

In Theaters: Friday 12th September 2003

Distributed by: Wellspring

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 70%
Fresh: 28 Rotten: 12

IMDB: 6.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Contactmusic


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