I saw Sukorov’s Russian Ark a few years ago and was disappointed. Maybe because it had been so hyped up in The Times and/or The New Yorker and/or elsewhere, my expectations were too high. Russian Ark was shot in one take, in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, climaxing, after a ball scene, with a huge crowd of people descending a staircase to exit the museum. Virtuosic cinema, perhaps, but it didn’t grab me.
Mother and Son is also a virtuoso performance in cinematography. Its intent is to recreate romantic landscape paintings of northern Europe. Reviewers mention Caspar David Friedrich, but in Sukorov’s text introduction included on the DVD (which I could not locate on-line) he does not specifically name Friedrich. The mood of the film is dreamier, more angst ridden, and the images less defined than in Friedrich’s paintings.
Here are two You Tube clips. One combines images from the film with Mahler’s Ich bin der welt abhanden gekommen sung, unfortunately, by Thomas Hampson. You Tube image+sound syntheses are usually just plain crappy, but the Mahler song is an inspired match with Sukorov’s recreation of 19th century northern European romantic painting.
Unfortunately (again) the video quality of the Mahler clip is poor. The first clip, of an excerpt from the film, is much closer to the palette of the original.
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