Man and the Myth
Man and the Myth
Eisenstein, Tarkovsky, Konchalovsky, Mikhalkov, these are
perhaps the only Russian film directors whose names have any
resonance outside of Russia. Alexander Sokurov is a well-known
director in Russia, but he is known in the West more as an art-film
director, whose films regularly appear at the Berlin and Cannes film
festivals. Even his most well-known film, Russian Ark, set
in the Hermitage Museum, which attracted a lot of press (chiefly for
the fact that it was shot in one single ninety-minute take), is not
yet available with English subtitles.
The Museum of Film in Moscow this month is showing two of his
films, Moloch and The Sun (which was released
earlier this year on limited release in Russia and abroad). The
Sun is the third film in his series of films about great men;
the first, Taurus, is about the last days of Lenin;
Moloch, the second, is about Hitler in his fortress eyrie
This is the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War,
and no doubt the screening of these two films at this time is
deliberate; they give a very particular view of two of the hate-men
of the twentieth-century.
The Sun has received a lot of comment in Japan, for its
portrayal of Emperor Hirohito, who comes across somewhat like Louis
XVI, in love with machinery, and more controlled by, than in control
of, events. Sokurov's film is about the political machinations that
went on between General Douglas MacArthur and Hirohito. MacArthur
first threatens Hirohito with a trial for war crimes, and then, when
Hirohito says that he will fight to the last man, he negotiates a
compromise that gives Hirohito immunity from prosecution in exchange
for a declaration of surrender. Two atom bombs help to convince
Hirohito that MacArthur is serious.
What unites the three films (it is a pity that not all
three of them will be screened) is the image of the camera itself.
There is a scene in Taurus where a photographer sets up his
tripod camera and poses an almost comatose Lenin for a 'family'
photo, to be used no doubt to convince the masses that all is well;
when he prepares to do the same with the visiting Stalin (come to
check how many days on earth Lenin has left), he is stared down by
Uncle Joe. In Moloch what most shows up Hitler to be a
strutting, self-important, deluded psychopath are the two scenes in
his private cinema, one when Goebbels gives him a first screening of
a propaganda film showing his roaring Panzers and screaming Stukas,
and the other when Hitler dementedly 'conducts' a performance of
Wagner, recorded in Berlin.
In The Sun we learn that Hirohito is a fan of Hollywood
film, particularly Charlie Chaplin. One of the key scenes is the
moment when Hirohito gives a photo call for a pack of Western
journalists - the first time a Japanese emperor has ever been
recorded on film - and they nickname him Charlie, for Hirohito does
indeed resemble Chaplin. It is Sokurov's way of showing how the lens
of a camera can be used to distort the truth of history - Lenin
'relaxing' in the country, the all-conquering army of Hitler's Third
Reich, pictures of Emperor 'Charlie' served up on breakfast tables
to show the world that there's nothing to be afraid of. Sokurov's
own lens is the corrective, the antidote to the poison of
propaganda. If you are in Red Square this month for the parades you
might keep his films in mind.
When: Moloch 7th May, The Sun 15th May
Where: Museum of Film, 15, Ul.
Druzhinnikovskaya, Moscow M. Krasonopresneneskaya