Culture

Sokurov says Putin put his money on Faust

MOSCOW: The Russian film “Faust,” which won the Golden Lion award at the Venice film festival came out thanks to the help of powerful Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, director Alexander Sokurov declared Tuesday.

“The film would not have seen the light if Putin had not found the funding,” the 60-year-old Russian arthouse filmmaker told AFP by telephone.

In autumn 2009, as the global economic crisis hit Russia and froze film productions, the director showed his plans for the film based on Goethe’s tragedy to Putin, who had invited him to his country house outside Moscow.

“He listened to me very attentively,” Sokurov said, “asking precise questions about the actors and the costumes.”

Putin, who served in East Germany as a KGB agent, showed “astonishing affinities with German culture,” Sokurov continued, and “[Putin] expressed only one wish: that the feature film shot in German should be a Russian production.”

A month later, the director said, a little-known charitable foundation called the Fund for the Support of the Development of Mass Media in Putin’s hometown of Saint Petersburg earmarked 8 million euros ($10.9 million) to make “Faust.”

The rest of the film’s budget – one million euros – was, he said, contributed by a Foundation to Support Russian Cinema, recently created on Putin’s initiative.

Putin phoned Sokurov Saturday to congratulate him just seven minutes after the prize was awarded, the director said.

“I was astonished and never understood why Putin, who has never been a friend of mine, decided to support the film,” said the director, whose films are far better known elsewhere in Europe than in his native country.

“Faust” is the final part of a four-part series of films about the corrupting influence of power, which began in 1999 with a fictional portrait of Adolf Hitler, followed by portraits of Vladimir Lenin and Emperor Hirohito. It follows Dr Faust (played by Johannes Zeiler) as he pursues his basest instincts in a frantic search for power and love.

In his message of congratulations to Sokurov, Putin praised the film as “grandiose.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 14, 2011, on page 16.

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