Magazine article Screen International

Aleksandr Sokurov: "Cinema Does Not Have Any Achievements"

Magazine article Screen International

Aleksandr Sokurov: "Cinema Does Not Have Any Achievements"

Article excerpt

Aleksandr Sokurov is participating in the Doha Film Institute's Qumra event this week as one of its five 'Qumra Masters'. During his masterclass at Doha's Museum of Islamic Art on Tuesday, a rapt audience listened to the Russian film-maker wax lyrical on his deep love for literature, his close friendship with Andrei Tarkovsky, and his strong moral outlook on romanticised violence in film.

It was an often provocative talk in which Sokurov, whose feature credits include Russian Ark, Venice Golden Lion winner Faust, Francofonia, Moloch and Mother And Son, outlined his strong belief that film is a lesser artform, particularly when compared against great literature.

"I've never thought of cinema as something big," said Sokurov, setting out his stall right at the beginning. "I don't think of it that way even now. Cinema for me is just a form of art and nowadays it can be blamed for many things. It does not have any achievements."

"I'm one of those people who does not need cinema really," he added. "As a cultural phenomenon, it's deeply secondary. Singing cinema's praises is a huge overstatement."

Destructive impact of cinema

Sokurov had much he wanted to share with the Qumra audience, frequently consulting a blue notebook and even reading a verse from the Koran: "There are many angels in the sky but their protection does not guarantee your safety".

He expressed concern about the state of contemporary film, citing the lack of moral compass in characters as an overriding flaw in Western films in particular. "A person's moral motivation is more important for me but American films only speak about the social motivation of their characters."

Sokurov was also critical of romanticised portraits of violence, war and death, admitting it leads him to avoid the films of many directors, although he didn't mention any names.

"Sometimes when making up my mind whether I want to watch a film or not, I check what kind of a person the director is," he said. "If he's somebody who enjoys making creepy, horrible films, then maybe I don't watch it. He might be very talented but deep down he will carry within himself this destructive energy of going against life."

"Even if we can see that cinema brings something nice to our lives, we are living with the colossal and mind-blowing destructive impact that cinema brings with it since the '70s," he added.

Friendship with Tarkovsky

Sokurov regaled the crowd with tales of his friendship with Andrei Tarkovsky, which began at Moscow film school VGIK, where the latter taught and became his mentor. "He loved what I was doing but, to be honest, I was quite reserved about his work. …

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