Alexander Sokurov werd op 14 juni 1951 geboren in Podorvikha (Irkoetsk). Hij behaalde een Master in geschiedenis aan de universiteit van Gorky, en een Master aan de VGIK Filmacademie. Zijn film FAUST won in 2011 de Gouden Leeuw op het festival van Venetië.
SELECTED FEATURE FILMOGRAPHY
1978 The Lonely Voice of Man
1983 Painful Indifference (aka Mournful Unconcern)
1988 Days of Eclipse
1989 Save and Protect
1990 The Second Circle
1993 Whispering Pages
1995 Spiritual Voices (documentary)
1996 Mother and Son
2002 Russian Ark
2003 Father and Son
2004 The Sun
2006 Elegy of Life
2009 Reading Book of the Blockade (documentary)
OTHER SELECTED WORKS
1978 Maria (medium-length)
1979 Sonata for Hitler (short)
1980 The Degraded (short)
1981 Sonata for Viola: Dmitri Shostakovich (documentary)
1986 Moscow Elegy
1986 Elegy (short)
1989 Soviet Elegy (short)
1990 Petersburg Elegy (medium-length)
1991 An Example of Intonation (medium-length)
1992 Elegy from Russia
1996 Oriental Elegy (medium-length)
1996 Hubert Robert: A Fortunate Life (short)
1997 A Humble Life (documentary)
1998 Dialogues with Solzhenitsyn (documentary)
1998 Confession (miniseries)
1999 Dolce (documentary)
2001 Elegy of a Voyage (medium-length)
2005 Mozart: Requiem (documentary)
Comments from ALEXANDER SOKUROV THE ARKS What would Paris be without the Louvre, or Russia without the Hermitage, those indelible national landmarks? Let’s imagine an ark on the ocean, with people and great works of art aboard – books, pictures, music, sculpture, more books, recordings, and more. The ark’s timbers cannot resist and a crack has appeared. What will we save? The living? Or the mute, irreplaceable testimonies to the past? FRANCOFONIA is a requiem for what has perished, a hymn to human courage and spirit, and to what unites mankind. A WORLD WITHIN A WORLD The museum community is probably the most stable part of the cultural world. What would we be without museums? Museums show us that a grand and magnificent culture existed before — considerably grander, smarter, than anything we are able to create today. The levels of the Louvre, the Hermitage, the Prado, the British Museum have always seemed to me located at staggering heights. I went to the Hermitage for the first time at age 27. This is very late, but I did not have other options. I am from a very simple family, very simple background. THE HERMITAGE When I heard we would be able to shoot RUSSIAN ARK in the Hermitage, I was intoxicated by the possibilities. I was literally intoxicated by the good treatment toward me and the crew by the Hermitage and [Mikhail] Piotrovsky. I was happy working there, and it seemed to me that under these conditions we could create a hymn to this world. The museum is a world within a world. By creating films in museums and about museums, we invite different people, people from different cultures, to actually meet these original works. THE LOUVRE I was immediately enthusiastic when the opportunity arose to film in the Louvre. I saw it as a return to my dream of making a cycle of art films with the Hermitage, the Louvre, the Prado, the British museum. It was wonderful that the Louvre administration responded so enthusiastically to our proposal. And then it was sheer joy to have the chance to work with my remarkable and illustrious colleague, cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel, a prominent master, a great artist. This combination of circumstances is a wonder in itself.
NAZI SOLDIERS IN THE LOUVRE People seem to be fascinated by the sight of Nazi soldiers in the galleries of the Louvre. Those soldiers in a temple to art? A paradox? But why should that be a paradox? Soldiers are also human beings, except that they wear boots and helmets. In actual fact, though, the Louvre’s galleries were bare during the Occupation. The works they contained had been removed and hidden several years before. People had been seized by a premonition of a second world war, involving the whole of Europe. In Leningrad, in Paris and in London, people began anxiously seeking shelter – holes in the ground, refuges, strong walls and spaces deep underground – to hide works of art. People began to understand: if we perish, our art will also inevitably perish – our hopes, our prayers, our God. THE BOMBING OF PARIS Paris, the city of museums, of a deep-seated humanistic culture, the cultural capital of the Old World. If Paris had been bombed in World War II, what would that have meant to us? Only as the end of all things, an irreparable event, a turning of the back on life. Strangely enough, it did not happen. Everything else was being bombed and burned while soldiers pillaged and army trucks bore off the spoils of war. Everywhere except in Paris. Paris was a haven of salvation. In old photos of the German Occupation in Paris, we see soldiers sitting in cafés and going to theatre. Young French women and men are seen in the streets, out cycling or strolling. It was as if peace, glorious peace, had broken out. JACQUES JAUJARD & FRANZ GRAF WOLFF-METTERNICH In studying contemporary documents, two unique figures immediately stand out from the rest: Louvre director Jacques Jaujard, and a representative of the Occupation forces, Franz Graf Wolff-Metternich. It would seem that they are enemies, but it gradually becomes clear that they are not enemies and that they have a lot in common. The period of their meeting, their confrontation, and their cooperation during the Second World War is the bulk of FRANCOFONIA. These two remarkable figures, who were almost the same age, each had the same vocation to protect and preserve works of art. Who were these men and who did they represent as humanist senior civil servants? Through which practical initiatives were they able to defend the artworks? Is it possible, in the circumstances of a merciless war, to defend the values of humanity? Even in the most difficult times of that war, these two not very influential men were able to halt aggression and preserve the Louvre’s great art collection. How deeply we regret today that nothing similar happened in the Soviet Union, Poland, or the rest of Eastern Europe.
A PATH WE HAVE ALL TRAVELLED FRANCOFONIA is not an historical film in the classic sense. I did not want to take a scientific approach, even if I attach great importance to factual details. What I was after was not a political aim, but an aim that one could characterize as artistic or more exactly as “fully conscious of” – to reflect through the lives of our characters a feeling for a period, its intonation, languages. People in their own particular circumstances, people who have fought to protect culture, to preserve art by overcoming the circumstances bearing down on them. In my mind’s eye, I saw this film as a path, a path we have all been on, a path that we are travelling again, and which the contemporary human travelling alongside us can understand and feel. A path that will enable us to shift between past, present, and future, in our own way, guided only by thoughts, reflections, and associations. FRANCOFONIA is more collage than chronological, often following the meanderings of changing thought-processes. A SHIP IN A STORM In FRANCOFONIA, the Author corresponds with his Friend aboard a ship carrying an important collection of museum art. The ship battling the storm, like fate in its purest form, is unavoidable: what will be will be. One may suppose that the ship might have been able to avoid the storm, but for some unknown reason it did not divert, or perhaps was unable to. All the containers are lost at sea. The confrontation, the dialogue, between the Friend at sea and the Author at home is a storyline of thought, a stream of consciousness. ART AND HISTORY If we touch art, we cannot not touch history. Art is linked to such a degree to history, the historical process, that unfortunately history takes on a destructive influence on art. It would be nice to detach art from history, but it’s impossible… These characters are a part of this history, and part of life. For me, Napoleon and Marianne are not formal figures, symbolic figures. For me they are living characters, completely alive. All ghosts are alive, if they exist. And I believe in the existence of ghosts, and all these creatures that inhabit houses.
FRANCOFONIA I liked the sound of “francofonia”, its tone. Like music imbues a film. As a title, Francofonia says something about what I was looking for, something that evokes a French intonation even if German and Russian have their place in the film, too. DOCUMENTARY AND FICTION Our task was how to bring together the part that we filmed with the film archives. How would we bring it all together in one artistic fabric? When working with the archival material, we had to strip that footage of their invented, artificial image. Everything that is related to Paris in the time of the Occupation is a fictional representation. 100%! People walking in the streets, sitting in cafés – absolutely narrative cinema. We did the same thing when we filmed the Louvre from the roof. That was more an art project than documentary. But behind any documentary image shot there is an artistic endeavor. This is inevitable. It is no coincidence that many documentary filmmakers want to make narrative cinema. All this has the same single space in reality. The materials we film or that we have, we can treat them artistically or adopt a formal and non-artistic attitude. A STUDENT It still seems to me that whatever I do is very flawed. So my relationship to cinema is that of a student. I’m simply a student in this process. I learn from whom I can learn. And these films are like my lessons. Thanks to my illustrious imaginary teachers, I try to do my lessons, pass tests and exams. What the results will be, I do not know.