BERLINALE 2020: SIBERIA BY ABEL FERRARA

This entry was posted on February 27th, 2020

By Mónica Delgado

Abel Ferrara’s Siberia is, before anything, a film about drives as non-natural impulses. And this concept is read here in a Freudian sense, where the characters do different actions (in a conscious or unconscious manner) with the end of calming an intense and profound desire, usually of sexual nature. The drives that are satisfied after an unusual and intense search.

As a paradox to the film’s name, what the veteran filmmaker is a cathartic tour de force, of an overwhelming visual hardiness, which plays a diversity of territories and strange characters (some laughable, some picaresque) where there are no limits for changing space and time from one scene to another.

Premiered in the recent Berlinale as part of the Official Competition, Siberia is a continuation of the universe and mise en scène of chaos and reverberation, already posed in Tommasso, the previous film of Ferrara presented in last year’s Cannes; a sort of 8 1/2 about a filmmaker in a personal and creative crisis. Here Willem Dafoe plays Clint, a hermit who lives in some frozen woods, accompanied by five Siberian dogs, who lives subdued to hallucinations of an intimate and religious character.

Like in Tomasso, Dafoe becomes Ferrara alter ego once again, and plays several roles (like the father of brother of Clint) to give account of a feverish fantasy of a being who lives tormented by infantile fears, a castrating mother and wife, of a frustrated paternity. Sexual relationships with a Russian pregnant woman, a cave full of freaks, the mother who appears on top of Clint naked as a think mark of Oedipus complex, or a talking fish. An insane Lynch of a Jodorowsky inebriated by his psychomagic.

The problem with Siberia is that, when posing the logic of the drive, imagination or memories of the lead character, this resource of the plot could be expanded to the infinite. Even more, you could add or take the scenes of fantastic or psychoanalithic character, and free will would still be the motor that sustains it all, until reaching the most whimsical absurd.

It is probable that Ferrara hasn’t made a film like 4:44 Last Day on Earth again. However, even despite the coarseness of some scenes or the unpredictable use of drive as a structure of the film, Siberia shows a filmmaker without fearing to show himself in this grotesque nudity, exhuming his worst fears, in a completely vital delirium.

Official Competition
Director: Abel Ferrara
Script: Abel Ferrara, Christ Zois
Music: Joe Delia
Cinematography: Stefano Falivene
Cast: Willem Dafoe, Dounia Sichov, Daniel Giménez Cacho, Simon McBurney, Cristina Chiriac, Trish Osmond, Anna Ferrara
Production Company: Vivo Film, Match Factory Productions, RAI Cinema, Regione Lazio, Piano Producciones
Italy, Germany, Mexico
2020, 92 min