Siberia (2020)

Director: Abel Ferrara

Writer: Abel Ferrara, Christ Zois

Cast: Willem Dafoe

Producers: Julio Chavezmontes, Marta Donzelli, Philipp Kreuzer, Gregorio Paonessa, Diana Phillips, Jörg Schulze

Music: Joe Delia

Cinematography: Stefano Falivene

Editor: Leonardo Daniel Bianchi, Fabio Nunziata

Cert: 18 (TBC)

Running time: 92mins

Year: 2020


What’s the story: Clint (Dafoe), a trader at an Arctic outpost, embarks upon a phantasmagorical journey of self-discovery.

What’s the verdict: Younger readers may not even recognise the name Abel Ferrara, and after watching Siberia will likely snort when told he was once an important cinematic voice.

For this Kickstarter funded hodge-podge of uninspired dream logic and imagery (reportedly based on the work of Carl Jung) is a far cry from the intelligence and viscera of Driller Killer, Ms. 45, The King of New York, Bad Lieutenant and The Funeral.

Although, us Ferrara-fans have long resigned ourselves to Abe’s 21st century output falling way, way short of his glory years. 2014’s Pasolini being a honourable exception…

That film starred Willem Dafoe, and he’s back again for a fifth team-up with the director. Dafoe’s presence is presumably how Siberia received sufficient funding to roll the cameras, but those numerous backers should have requested script approval.

Clint’s odyssey opens promisingly. In his spacious cabin outpost he serves hot rum to (unsubtitled) locals and shoots the breeze with a fruit machine addicted woodsman. But, said fruit machine appears to transform into a bear that mauls Clint and the film swiftly disappears up its own Jungian and/or Freudian archetype.

Two women enter Clint’s spacious cabin. One elderly, one young and very pregnant. Clint has sex with the latter. Clint will bed other young women on his quest for self-discovery.

Clint spars with his caustic doppleganger (Dafoe) and shares confused conversations of attempted reconciliation with his dad (also Dafoe, Abe getting his money’s worth from his leading man).

An obese woman dances. A naked, wheelchair-bound female dwarf utters opaque, stilted dialogue (Ferrara and co-writer Christ Zois indulge themselves throughout with leaden dire-logue). Clint rides a husky-drawn sled past mass executions at a snowy death camp, then across the Mexican desert. Audience patience is tested. Clint dad dances to Del Shannon’s Runaway, and as he walks along we wonder what went wrong with Ferrara’s director muscle. Clint dances around a maypole.

Any brave souls who remain conscious during Clint’s directionless, turgid trip (as dull as watching someone drop acid) will be rewarded with an occasional arresting visual courtesy of Pasolini cinematographer Stefano Falivene. Or possibly “visual consultant” Phil Neilsen.

But why has Ferrara, who has led an extraordinary life, made a film about a self-pitying late middle-aged man, whose soul searching boils downs to daddy issues and screwing younger women? This is the biggest question, and is never answered in the dated-feeling, achingly self-conscious Siberia.

Still, the huskies are nice.

Rob Daniel
Twitter: rob_a_Daniel
iTunes Podcast: The Movie Robcast


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