Father and Son is a beautiful, gold-tinted, nostalgic look at a father and son who are so close they can enter each other’s dreams. The performances are extremely stylized, though, and had me baffled, at least at first. The father, who is ill, is the envy of all his son’s friends; he’s an ideal figure, as though he were already memory. The son, though he looks about eighteen, acts much younger most of the time – sometimes an admiring ten-year-old, sometimes a rebellious fourteen. In the end, I suppose it becomes an ageless, timeless portrait of father-son love.
Russian Ark – I’d read a lot about this one, so I knew it was one long shot through the Hermitage, with historical re-enactments along the way. What I didn’t know about was the strange conversation that goes on between the two ghosts who serve as our guides, as they discuss topics like Russia’s obsession with European culture and the historical loss of religious context. It's weird and fascinating, and the main reason to watch it again. Of course, the art is wonderful and the historical re-enactments are true spectacle. The way the scenarios wrap around and through each other is astonishing, and the final ball is full of life, its ending thought-provoking and so haunting! Also, I’m not sure why, but the little scene in the middle, where Catherine the Great runs through the snow, took my breath away. Truly a little jewel of a film!
The Second Circle is a powerful, bleak look at a man dealing with the immediate aftermath of his father’s death. It’s the opposite of Mother and Son in every way: no love, no beauty, no life, only death and emptiness. The son seems completely lost, disconnected, as he gets the death certificate and makes funeral preparations. But, as depressing as this is, I think the worst occurs before the film starts: the old man’s life, alone, in absolute squalor. It’s hinted that he was a bad, quarrelsome man. But, if the title refers to the the second circle of hell, the father’s hell was his life.
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