Abel Ferrara takes Willem Dafoe on a soul-searching trip into the wilderness in Siberia.
It is odd experiecnce watching this film at the London Film Festival, having seen Ferrara’s documentary Sporting Life at the Venice Film Festival which is about the premiere of Siberia at the Berlin Film Festival.
At Berlinale, this film was met with, the most polite way to put it is, mixed reviews. It is not difficult to see why. The Imdb plot synopsis simply says “An exploration into the language of dreams”. Just as dreams are incredibly open to interpretation, a viewer’s experience of the film will depend on how open they are to Ferrara’s vision.
One person who is attuned to the director’s wavelength is Willem Dafoe. This marks their sixth feature film together.
He plays Clint, an American who has abandoned his former life to run a bar in the Russian wilderness. Plagued by hallucinations, he embarks on journey into the unknown in the cinematic equivalent of a Native American vision quest.
He confronts, and is confronted by, his ex-wife, father, brother, son and many more real and imaginary characters in a variety of encounters that will bewitch some and bemuse others.
The one constant throughout the trek is the stunning cinematography of Stefano Falivele. To paraphrase Beyonce, he makes it look like a sweet dream and a beautiful nightmare.
With Dafoe indulging in full frontal nudity, explicit sex scenes and interacting with talking animals, Siberia would make for an intriguing double bill with Antichrist.
Siberia expresses a filmmaker’s unique vision. One ultimately perhaps too unique to allow audiences to embrace it.
Director: Abel Ferrara
Stars: Willem Dafoe, Dounia Sichov, Simon McBurney, Christina Chiriac
Runtime: 92 minutes