FATHER AND SON

 (Otets I syn)

Directed by Alexander Sokurov. 2003.


Talking Pictures alias talkingpix.co.uk
 
 


 
 

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"For me, a son will always be his father's child, even when he's grown up. We should maintain the tenderness that exists in human relations. If we fail to do so, we will lose our humanity.” - Alexander Sokurov


Alexander Sokurov's Mother and Son had a sense of joy and love tempered by a setting in an ominous dark forest. The second part of the trilogy, Father and Son has no such ambivalence. It is drenched in sunlight and bathed in a glow of greens and browns. The film opens with the image of two male bodies in bed, their naked bodies intertwined in a rapturous embrace. One is breathing rapidly; the other is trying to comfort him. We think these must be gay lovers, but soon discover that it is a father comforting his son after a nightmare. Though the film feels homoerotic, Sokurov chafed at the suggestion calling it the product of sick European minds. According to the director, "Their (father and son) love is almost of mythological virtue and scale. It cannot happen in real life", and the film is "the incarnation of a fairy tale. Shot in Lisbon, Portugal, Father and Son is not attached to time or place. A soldier's uniform is depicted in the latest style, while women's dresses and hairstyles are of the 40s, 50s and 60s. 

Father (Andrei Shetinin) and son (Alexei Nejmyshev) live together on the top floor of an apartment house and have done so for many years since the death of their mother. Their world looks like a sanctuary but may be a prison. It was while attending a school for air cadets that the father met his wife and bore his son, now 20. His son's physical appearance reminds the father of his late wife and their bond is intense and emotional. Alexei attends military school like his father who left military service against his will and wants his son to pick up where he left off. He has a girl friend but there is a distance between them. She is jealous of his relationship with his father that to her appears overprotective and he does not want to give up his father's closeness. 

Alexei's father is conflicted about looking for a job in a different city and seeking a new wife. They must decide whether to continue their lives together or independently. The struggle for freedom and independence is mutual but they are held together by a transcendent love. Father and Son is an enigmatic but deeply poetic film about the complex bond that a son has with his father. While the film is open to interpretation from different cultural, psychological, or religious points of view (the film says, “A father who loves his son crucifies him. A son who loves his father sacrifices himself for him”), for me, the best approach is to avoid the temptation to analyze and just bathe in the warmth of its loving glow.
 

Howard Schumann
 
 
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