REEL Review – Siberia (2020)

Director: Abel Ferrara | 1h 32mins | Drama, Fantasy, Horror

A man shut off from the world, running a bar in the wilderness of Canada, takes a deep dive into his own subconscious and experiences all kind of visions.

‘All kinds of visions’ is as detailed as I can be when discussing Abel Ferrara’s strange new film. A film that is supposedly an attempt to film emotion and the mind. Our fears, thoughts and regrets are all attempted to be laid out in front of us. But what feels like an attempt to enchant you with poignant visuals unfortunately disengages you with it’s ambiguity and lack of direction.

That being said the opening visions do open up an a certain intrigue. Willem Dafoe goes from envisioning himself being attacked by a bear, meeting and making love to a beautiful pregnant woman and even coming face to face with a strange darker side of himself as they engage in conversations of the soul. The problem comes when Dafoe sets off on his ‘quest’, jumping on his sled accompanied by his trusty husky dogs.

The words are overly poetic and profound – trying to be existential and thought-provoking, but the reality is an eye-wincing pretentiousness that the film can never shake off.

The visions become somewhat blurry. It feels all connected to life, death and regret, but the inconsistency is overwhelming. So much to the point that when the film reaches it’s climax, that feels like it’s trying to be a powerful moment of it’s own, is completely lost in the previous lack of connection we feel to the rest of the film. Sure, some are easier than others to work out, he’s clearly a man who’s struggled with his relationship with his Father, as well as being unfaithful in his marriage and damaging his family life. But even the strongest scenes struggle for greatness through the blandness of Ferrara’s script.

The words are overly poetic and profound – trying to be existential and thought-provoking, but the reality is an eye-wincing pretentiousness that the film can never shake off. It’s particularly difficult to watch during Dafoe’s encounters with his ex-wife, a scene that is awfully drawl, and even if both performers are giving it their all it can’t escape the uncomfortable feeling of forced dialogue. It’s a shame though, Ferrara has been working strongly in the film industry for some time, but it feels like he’s over stretching for something that just doesn’t translate.

It’s the most disappointing film of the festival thus far, but there is an argument for the film reaching a niche audience. It’s clear that Ferrara has huge ideas with his newest film and people may appreciate it’s visual interpretation of the mind. However, the film feels like it’s stretching for something that can’t be found, losing it’s intrigue as soon as Dafoe steps out of the Canadian wilderness.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

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