5 Essential Aleksandr Sokurov Facts
As part of the Locarno70 sidebar, showcasing first films by directors who qualify as discoveries of the Festival, the audience will get the chance to see Odinokiy golos cheloveka (The Lonely Voice of Man – GranRex, August 9, 4 PM), the first full-length feature by Aleksandr Sokurov. Sokurov, who will be in attendance, won the Pardo di bronzo thirty years ago and returned to Locarno in 2006 to receive the Pardo d’onore. In the meantime he’s achieved international acclaim with films such as Russkiy kovcheg (Russian Ark, 2002) and the tetralogy about power that began with Molokh (Moloch, 1999) and ended with Faust (2011), which won the Golden Lion in Venice. To honor Sokurov’s presence, here are five interesting facts about his career.
Odinokiy golos cheloveka (The Lonely Voice of Man) was actually shot in 1978, but remained uncompleted and unreleased until 1987, due to Soviet censorship (Skorbnoye beschuvstviye – Mournful Unconcern, produced in 1983, was similarly banned for four years). During this time, Sokurov received moral support from his friend and mentor Andrei Tarkovsky, who passed away in 1986. The film was then dedicated to his memory.
The son of a military officer, Sokurov developed a keen interest in the armed forces of the former Soviet Union. As of 2017, he has devoted three documentaries to this topic: Dukhovnye golosa. Iz dnevnikov voyny. Povestvovanie v pyati chastyakh – Spiritual Voices: From the Diaries of a War (1995), Soldatskiy son – Soldier’s Dream (1995), Povinnost – Confession: From the Commander’s Diary (1998). Only the third title is somewhat known outside of Russia.
For his tetralogy of power, Sokurov chose to make each film in the language of the respective country of origin. Solntse – The Sun (about Emperor Hirohito) and Faust (based on Goethe’s text) were actually shot in Japanese and German, whereas Molokh – Moloch (about Hitler) was filmed with Russian actors and then dubbed in post-production.
For Russkiy kovcheg (Russian Ark), shot in one unedited take inside the Winter Palace, four attempts were made to achieve the desired effect. The first failed after roughly five minutes, while the fourth, which ended up being used in the film, was pulled off with just enough battery power in the hard disk used to store the footage.
In addition to facing censorship problems in Russia in the early stages of his career, Sokurov has also had difficulties in the Japanese release of Solntse (The Sun). Due to its depiction of Hirohito, which is highly personal and omits all references to the Tokyo tribunal, the film has not been widely screened in Japan, out of fear of violent reactions from rightwing extremists.