Faust is the final film in the biographical tetralogy of power examined by Russian filmmaker Alexander Sokurov. Following Moloch, Taurus and The Sun, which looked at Hitler, Lenin and Hirohito respectively, Faust is a reworking of Goethe's masterpiece via Thomas Mann's masterpiece in its own right, set in the nineteenth century. It won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2011 and is one of the most critically regarded films of the 2010s.
The tale is well known. In this iteration, Heinrich Faust cannot resist the fair Gretchen. Consumed by his desire for existential enlightenment, a pact with the devilish Mauricius (filling in here for the damnable Mephistopheles) sees our hero (in the broadest sense, that is) sealing his own fate with a series of decisions made by temptation and crave.
It's not a barrel of laughs, this film. If you know the myth, you understand the complexities of emotion and personality that the legend explores. Regardless, there is an inherent truth about humanity lightly woven within the complex narrative. It's a work of art that explores what it means to be human and what it means to want. It's a film that attempts to mirror and reflect its audience. Disturbingly, it makes this all reassuringly satisfying, and that's a difficult thing for a film to pull off.
Faust is at the British Film Institute tonight, until 02 August.