Moloch (DVD-NTSC)

Moloch (DVD-NTSC)

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In his new film Alexander Sokurov shows a day in the ghostly and inaccessible House built on the Mountain for the man of Power — the Power that has already done its horrible and catastrophically destructive work over the world and man. The characters of this parable bear historical names, which are notorious all over the world — Adolf Hitler, Eva Braun, Joseph and Magda Goebbels, Martin Borman and others. The Mountain, as all the other characters, also has a real prototype: Kelstein mountain in the Alps where in 1939 'the nest for the Furer' — Kelsteinhaus — was erected in the style of the Third Reich romanticism.
The Hitlerian theme first appeared in Russian cinema art in the years of the Second World War and was tightly connected with the plan to denounce Nazism. In the country, which had suffered the most terrible aggression from the Nazi Germany, the most popular art — cinema — was creating a superficial, caricature-like image of 'the possessed Furer'. Hitler, at first as a character of short satirical movies of the war years, later as a conventionally symbolic character of Soviet war epics made after the war, was deliberately deprived of any psychological depth.
The psychological aspect — the aspect of an author's view — first appeared in Sokurov's short documentary Sonata for Hitler (1979-1989) made up of German newsreel. Fascism and, on a greater scale, the totalitarian state as a source of the personal catastrophe of a dictator and the tragedy of a deceived and disgraced nation — this was the theme the director developed in his documentary, having in mind parallels to the history of Russia.
Not the political but the humanitarian aspect was of interest for Sokurov in the other documentary about the war against Fascism called And Nothing More (1982-1987). Leaders of countries and common people on the ruins of war, where battlefields and devastated cities are as lifeless as the comfortable background of international top-level talks, — this is the image of the post-war world restored by the director on the basis of old newsreel. The artistic method of Sokurov as a documentary-maker (he has made more than 20 documentaries) is unique because he does not interpret the document, but moulds out of it a completely independent elaborate form, saturated with emotion. In 1980-1990s the director created a series of documentaries which he called elegies.
Dealing with the course of historical events, literary plots, biographies of famous or unknown people, Sokurov is primarily interested in turning points, such as the most tragic and inevitable transition period in man's existence — from life to death. Therefore all the attempts of the state or one man to influence other people's destinies are presented by Sokurov in the light of the bitterly ironic, poised author's view. Man's nature is beyond his own control: he is just a homeless, destitute child of the unknown powers. Whoever the protagonist of Sokurov may be — a degraded Soviet militiaman (The Degraded, 1980) or a member of British intelligentsia of the first decade of the 20 century from G.B.Shaw's play (Painful Indifference, 1983-1987), Flaubert's heroine Emma Bovary (Save and Protect, 1990) or Dostoevsky's Raskolnikov (Whispering Pages, 1993) — the director so to say reaches him or her in the moment of lasting spiritual agony — after the catastrophe. Decay as the consequence of an act of the will is a constant subject of the majority of Sokurov's works.
This theme is further developed in Moloch. In this film Hitler is presented as a product of the decay of the whole epoch of culture — as a personification of the highest possible stage of Power, as a symbol of the absurdity of all the universal desires of man.
The main principles of the epoch of Modern: the ideas of the transmutation of life, narcisstic voluntarism of a creative personality and vital aesthetics, imposed upon mass consciousness as instructions for action, were transformed into their opposite — the oppression of whole nations, the cult of a leader and everlasting war. The war in Sokurov's film is doing its destructive work in the souls and bodies of those who conduct the war, although the real battlefield is the distant and almost unfamiliar for the characters background against which they lead their comfortable life. The author chooses the direction, opposite to the historical screen: he looks into the recesses of the human nature, which is polar to the devilish mechanism of Power. Sokurov's tragic grotesque, presented on the material of the Hitlerian Germany, touches the problems of the contemporary world, irrespectively of geography and political system — no matter whether it is Russia or the USA. If we put together the parts of two well-known formulas: The Twilight of Gods by Friedrich Nietzsche and The Triumph of the Will by Leni Riefenstahl (in 1936 she made a film under such title as a tribute to Hitler), we shall have a formula of the contemporary world, found by Alexander Sokurov: The Twilight of the Will. This is the diagnosis made by the artist.
Among the monochrome images of mould and decay, dominating in the film, the only contrast spot of life is Eva. The voice of her love — demanding and anxious, mocking and desperate, the voice of nature itself, is opposed to the withering away rhythm of the absurd dialogues, castrated scheme of ritual relations, in the centre of which there is not a man, but 'the father of the nation'. This voice of humiliated yet not eliminated femininity leads the tragic theme in the duet of the main characters — Adi and Eva.
The psychological style of acting in grotesque, absurd, even comic yet seriously thought-out situations has given complicated tasks to the performers — actors from drama theatres of St. Petersburg. This is the first film by Sokurov where all the main parts were played by professional actors: in his previous ten feature films the director often preferred to cast non-professionals. Hitler is played by the well-known St. Petersburg actor Leonid Mozgovoy who also starred in Stone (1992) in the make-up of Anton Chekhov. Eva is played by the actress Elena Rufanova.
In-door shootings were done in the pavilions and workshops of Lenfilm studio, nature shootings were conducted in the mountains of Bavaria. The film was scored for sound in Germany by actors from Berlin theatres.

Alexandra Tuchinskaya

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