LFF 2020: Siberia – Review

Release Date – N/A, Cert – N/A, Run-time – 1 hour 32 minutes, Director – Abel Ferrara

A man (Willem Dafoe) journeys into a cave to confront both his past and his dreams, or nightmares

Willem Dafoe has definitely had a thing for playing characters in remote situations seemingly going mad. After the release of The Lighthouse earlier this year we now find him in Abel Ferrara’s Serbia as a bar-owner in the middle of the Serbian mountains. Serving few patrons and simply living his days calmly, peacefully and with little interactions, those that he does have are rarely in his own language. His behaviour and isolation implies that he’s been running from something, trying to hide from it – the film backing this up with its general concept. And so, over the course of the film we see his journey through a cave, where he goes to confront his past and his dreams.

At this point it would seem fitting to briefly explain some of the events that occur within the cave, a bit more about the plot, unfortunately from here not a great deal makes sense. There are numerous interjections as Dafoe’s character seemingly reimagines scenarios with his family – him playing each figure including his Mum and Dad, and there are points where the film seems to pick up or begin to make sense as these moments go on. However, it’s not long until the seemingly deep-thinking, metaphorical, philosophical, psychological conundrums of the film come back into play and it seems to float around in an unspecified space or realm trying to say something with the viewer unsure as to what that might be.

Dafoe’s Clint enters the cave in the hope of confronting his past and dreams, to make peace with himself and others. In a number of ways the film itself feels like a 92 minute dream, nightmare might potentially be more fitting, sequence. Many occurrences are strange and unusual, and definitely beyond explanation. They feel trippy and weird throughout the entire film. You’re never truly grasped by it, instead such feelings act as a barrier towards you properly engaging with the film, if you’re able to understand most of what’s actually going on amongst the constant jumping back and forth between ideas, sequences and numerous naked bodies.

There are individual ideas lightly scattered at certain intervals over the course of the film that show some potential. Hope that things might pick up and start to properly get going amongst the slow stagger of madness that the film otherwise displays. Simon McBurney, simply credited as Magician, turns up for a few minutes and shows some promise. Not exactly bringing you in to the film, but at least doing something to help it along somehow. And yet the film as a whole never really comes together. It seems almost too much and as if it needs a bit more explanation over just showing you multiple dream sequences to construct a 92 minute fever-dream-cum-nightmare-sequence, not to mention the regular sex scenes/ nudist parties. Siberia seems to be trying to say something, but the way that it goes about it is just too unengaging, scattered and generally all over the place in terms of plot and ideas, makes it unclear as to what that is and overall makes for a rather lengthy and dissatisfying watch.

Possibly one of the weirdest and trippiest dream/ hallucination sequences ever made Siberia never properly clicks, simply disengaging the viewer due to its seemingly busy yet structurally lacking, not to mention confusing, narrative and detail.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

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