Director (and co-writer): Abel Ferrara
Cast: Willem Dafoe, Christina Ferrara, Simon McBurney, Dounia Sichov
Abel Ferrara (King of New York, Bad Lieutenant) is back in a big way, setting his latest, a psychoanalytic nightmare — think Tarkovsky and Lynch in a boat crossing the Styx — in a Siberian dreamscape where Willem Dafoe offers refuge to visitors. – FNC 2020
Being unfamiliar with a lot of Abel Ferrara’s work other than Body Snatchers (review, which I watched in the early days of the blog and early days of writing movie reviews so its not really insightful) and a little more familiar with Willem Dafoe’s work (who I do think is fairly underrated as an actor), Siberia was an abstract visual feast that dived into some pretty bizarre segments.
Visually, Siberia is a treat both in its setting in the middle of isolated Siberian winterscape starting off at an inn run by Willem Dafoe’s character who gives refuge to people passing where he doesn’t understand what they say most of the time and quickly moving through this wintery land via dog sled on a journey to an unknown destination and landing in some caves and other interesting places leading to deserts and such. I already said it before, its really out there and because of that, its easy to get lost but somehow, I feel like its meant to reflect on this character of Willem Dafoe as he moves through these scenes reflecting on this own life and whatever feelings that he’s getting as it blends into the different places that he is. The imagery, the atmosphere and the cinematography is fantastic even if I might not have quite understood everything that was going on. In fact, all those elements together crafts what it describes as a nightmare which I do agree with as a lot of it is very unsettling even sometimes in how its scripted and the dialogue.
Willem Dafoe does grab this character, Clint in a rather mesmerizing way. He fits into this role in a fairly convincing fashion molding, facing each blend of reality and hallucination into this interesting character going through different dilemmas (I’m not sure if that’s the right word to use here). In some scenes, it feels like his character is having this confrontation with himself and there’s something very intense here that needs to be understood under all the abstract elements. There is a limited amount of dialogue going on and yet in a very subtle and subconscious way, we do know a lot more about Clint’s character by the end.
While Siberia might not be exactly my cup of tea, it sure seemed like in all the oddities and bizarre nightmares, there is something ripe for discussion about human relationships and Clint’s character and the depth of each of the scenarios of what is reality and hallucination because it does jump from different climates and it does feel disjointed without fully understanding this whole movie. Siberia is a tough movie to talk about because of how unusual everything is but after having a few chats with others who are more familiar with Abel Ferrara’s work, it does seem to be right on track with his style (which is something I’m going to explore further and hopefully come back to follow-up with a better understanding). If Ferrara’s work is something that you enjoy, this might be one to check out especially since I did appreciate the cinematography and Dafoe’s performance. On a final note though, I might not be the best person to vouch for this movie at this point but Siberia is unique, that point I am absolutely certain of.
*Siberia is currently available on Festival du Nouveau Cinema that runs until October 31st, 2020*