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Review: Siberia [London Film Festival]

October 13, 2020

You would think that after having to spend too much time in a lighthouse, Willem Dafoe would choose something more uplifting for his next project. Well, think again. This time he went for an even darker role and pretty sure that co-writer/director Abel Ferrara (Tommaso, Pasolini) was thrilled with that. Ferrara and his life-long muse Dafoe work together again, and Siberia is undoubtedly a movie you will remember but sadly not only for the right reasons.

A mind-bending story

Where do we begin? Not quite sure but let’s give it a shot anyway. The movie starts in Siberia (what a surprise, right?) and Clint (Willem Dafoe) is the owner of a decayed and remote bar. Not many people, but at least he gets a few customers. They’re the only people that make sense in this movie cause apart from that, everything seems to be surreal. What follows is a cacophony of events. A pregnant woman making Clint’s life even stranger, men being beaten up and Clint hearing and seeing his dead dad. Do you want to know where this disturbing journey is taking us? Then that’s for you to discover by watching this movie.

Willem Dafoe as Clint in Siberia
Willem Dafoe as Clint in Siberia
(Credit: The Match Factory)

Peculiar to say the least

During an interview with Sundance, ahead of the shooting of Siberia, Ferrara mentioned that he wanted to “see if we can film dreams—our fears, our regrets, our nostalgia.”. Well, we have to applaud the director for achieving that because having to deal with fear, regrets and our dreams is precisely what Siberia is about. We all know that our dreams can be very disorientated especially if you wake up in the middle of one. When it comes to that element, Siberia feels exactly like a dream because of all the different worlds and events and no explanation whatsoever.

If you have a perplexing story like this, you have to make sure that it’s still a captivating one; otherwise, the audience might drop out before the movie even becomes interesting. Luckily for Ferrara, he can count on cinematographer Stefano Falivene, who already brought stunning films to life such as Aspromonte: Land of the Forgotten and All You Ever Wished For. Falivene succeeds in putting every dream on the screen in a beautiful way. Whether it’s the quiet and white Siberia or the heated and sandy desert, it all looks gorgeous, vibrant and intriguing. It’s just a shame that this movie includes too many dreams and because of that, we can’t enjoy every dream and the whole cinematography to the fullest.

Willem Dafoe as Clint in Siberia
Willem Dafoe as Clint in Siberia
(Credit: The Match Factory)

Enormous credit to Dafoe

If you have a twisted story like this, then you know that you need an actor who put on an even crazier performance. It’s understandable why Ferrara went for Dafoe. Not only because both men got together many times but also because, as we all know from The Lighthouse, Dafoe is a master in portraying unusual and broken figures. This time is no different. Whether it’s as the lost man longing to see his deceased father, the lifeless guy who’s looking for his soul, the passionate lover or the very amusing dancer, Dafoe gets the chance again to show his wide range of capabilities.

Why so serious?

Apart from the magnificent cinematography and the excellent performance by Dafoe, there’s one more element that might make you enjoy Siberia a bit more and that’s the seriousness of this movie. We should actually say ‘the lack of seriousness’ as it’s clear the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously. There are many cliches, moments that don’t make sense at all and scenes that are too unoriginal.

Where’s your head at?

We have absolutely no clue in which state of mind Ferrara and co-writer Christ Zois (Jersey Guy) were when they wrote the script of this movie and not sure if we want to go there. It’s certainly not a mindset we’ve experienced. While the cinematography is a breath-taking one and the acting performance from Dafoe is impressive, the storyline is just a bit too much all over the place to make from Siberia a delightful and enjoyable movie.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

Siberia (Official Trailer)

Also Read: Lighthouse (Review)

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