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With: Willem Dafoe, Dounia Sichov, Simon McBurney, Cristina Chiriac, Daniel Gimenez Cacho, Phil Neilson, Fabio Pagano, Anna Ferrara, Laurentio Arnatsiaq
Written by: Abel Ferrara, Christ Zois
Directed by: Abel Ferrara
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content, nudity/graphic nudity, some disturbing violence, and bloody images
Running Time: 92
Date: 06/18/2021

Siberia (2021)

3 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Sure to alienate casual viewers, the challenging, searching, strange odyssey Siberia may ensnare those that know their psychology or are more than passingly familiar with the work of director Abel Ferrara.

A man, Clint (Willem Dafoe) lives in a remote, snowy cabin and runs a makeshift bar for local patrons. Embarking on a kind of journey of self-discovery, he begins to experience a series of visions, or dreams, or nightmares. He makes love to women, falls off of a cliff, talks to his late father, rides a dogsled into the desert, meets a magician, has an argument with his ex-wife, and encounters a talking fish. What will Clint find when he comes out the other side?

Siberia — not to be confused with the 2018 Keanu Reeves movie — is the sixth collaboration between Ferrara and four-time Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe; their intense, interior working relationship has Dafoe often playing onscreen surrogates for Ferrara, with their shared experiences shaping the stories. (Their last film was the more cohesive, emotional Tommaso.) This one, inspired by the writings of Carl Jung, is bizarre, often shocking, and sometimes absurd.

While many of Ferrara's films sneak in weird, startling moments that could almost be dreams or nightmares, he's essentially a realist, dabbling in scuzzy, urban landscapes and characters that have truly tasted of life. So he can't quite pull off an entire movie's worth of dream state.

Even though many of the images are quite affecting, there's too much structure in Siberia, too many sharp angles. It doesn't flow as truthfully as, say, a David Lynch movie might. Yet the connective thread is Dafoe, with a fully-committed, earnest performance of a man seeking compassion and understanding. It's a most unusual journey, and a mostly rewarding one.

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