Filmfest Munich Review: THE VOICE OF SOKUROV, Another Boring Film On An Exciting Filmmaker

jackie-chan
Contributor; Austria
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Filmfest Munich Review: THE VOICE OF SOKUROV, Another Boring Film On An Exciting Filmmaker
It seems to be of great importance to film festivals around the globe to include films about filmmakers in their program. This genre guarantees a certain interest among the festival visitors and is usually very, well, boring. Of course, there are some great films about filmmakers like Chris Marker's take on Tarkovsky, Olivier Assayas' take on Hou Hsiao-Hsien or Pedro Costa's take on Straub&Huillet just to name a few.

But the annual mass of films about filmmakers we get to see is never more interesting as what is talking and moving in front of the camera. The problem often is that directors are handicapped when filming their colleagues. They don't want to steal the show. Due to that one might always end up asking why one hasn't just spend the time watching a film by the director who has been filmed.

Leena Kilpeläinen and her take on the great Russian director Alexander Sokurov does not make any exception here, it is an average documentary on a director consisting of many film clips and some interviews with Sokurov. It was shot in six different locations in St.Petersburg which were chosen by the director. The structure follows a day-to-day basis with discussion about art, politics and cinema and fitting examples in Sokurov's cinema. The interviews are filmed in a very casual and television-like manner and easily disappear next to the burning images of Sokurov's films.

However, it is great to get to know a little bit about Sokurov's history in relation to Lenfilm which he has left after 33 years in 2013. The film has some interesting archival footage to offer but never really digs deeper. So, we are forced to listen to edited passages of philosophical talking by Sokurov. The main idea behind it all seems to be about the artist as a victim of his political surroundings and the decline of Russian film industry.

Those familiar with the writings of Tarkovsky will immediately spot similarities and there is no doubt that Sokurov is a very strong and interesting human being. He at the same time wants to have a system and be free. He goes for feelings, tears and work. But in the film we never see the work of the filmmaker, we never see his feelings or his tears, we just see him talking about it and clips of his films.

Kilpeläinen obviously includes some discussions about recent politics in Russia. They never go beyond superficial statements. When Sokurov is moving in slow-motion in the end the film finally becomes a propaganda piece for its artist. There is nothing wrong with admiring such a great director as Sokurov. But making a film should be a bit more.

One might object that such a film certainly helps to stirr the appetite of new audiences to watch film by Sokurov and as long as festivals almost automatically include those works there will be an ongoing fascination with those heroes of cinema. But cinephilia need to have a heart and a dangerous longing when it confronts those heroes. Those aspects are all absent in The Voice of Sokurov which clearly lacks the voice of Kilpeläinen.
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