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With: Elena Rufanova, Leonid Mosgovoi, Leonid Sokol, Yelena Spiridonova, Vladimir Bogdanov
Written by: Yuri Arabov, Marina Koreneva
Directed by: Alexander Sokurov
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: German with English subtitles
Running Time: 108
Date: 05/14/1999

Moloch (1999)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Hitler and Run

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It's difficult to want to watchfilms about Adolf Hitler. The power of the cinema may be dangerous enough tohumanize the evil dictator and even elevate him to some kind of legendary or heroicstatus.

Fortunately, that's not the case in Alexander Sokurov's odd and remarkable Moloch (1999), newly released on DVD by Koch Lorber. Sokurov's film takes place during the course of one day in 1942, nestled high in Hitler's stony mountaintop fortress. Sokurov gives the setting his usual dreamy visuals, but this time the film has a slightly off-kilter, almost queasy look to it. The effect is helped by the fact that his actors are dubbed into German and none of the lips move quite right.

Hitler (Leonid Mosgovoi) and Eva Braun (Elena Rufanova) invite a group of guests for lunch and dinner, for a walk and for conversation. Goebbels is there, and everyone spends the day sucking up to the dictator, complimenting him throughout his strange and shifting rants. One character remarks that he might have made a good writer if not for the fact that he needed to lead Germany.

The dictator seems more and more insane as the film winds on, raging about such odd topics as food, children and movies. The film's key is its wily Eva. Hitler makes it clear that he believes all women are stupid, yet Eva is able to manipulate him in certain ways, even though it's clear that she loves him.

I'm really not sure what to make of Moloch, other than to say that Sokurov is one of the most fascinating directors alive today and I'll sit through anything of his, even something as unpleasant as this.

DVD Details: Koch Lorber's DVD comes with a making-of documentary which mostly features Sokurov talking.

In addition, Facets Video has chipped in by releasing twomore of Sokurov's most difficult and challenging films on DVD, clearly a sublimeact of bravery on their part. Both are lengthy documentaries, made fortelevision in episode form.

Divided into five episodes, Spiritual Voices (1995) spends its first hour on a single shot, a snowy landscape that changes very subtly over time, while an off-screen narrator tells stories about Mozart and death. This prologue lends a new gravity to images of soldiers fighting on the border between Tadjikistan and Afghanistan. Sokurov spends a great deal of time just watching them, sometimes without dialogue, sometimes doing nothing. This film runs 327 minutes, or 5-1/2 hours, and is presented on two discs.

Confession (1998) shows much of the same painterly texture as seen in the previous Mother and Son. It depicts life aboard a Russian naval ship as it circles the Arctic. The captain narrates as Sokurov's camera captures vivid little moments of life, or half-life, aboard the dark, frigid ship. The sun never comes out, and it's almost always dark, lending a muted, motionless quality to the work. Sailors get dressed, stand watch and complain about rat droppings in their tea. There's a certain homoerotic quality as well, as the captain wrestles with his deep-rooted feelings toward his men. Sokurov edited the television episodes into this 218-minute version, packaged onto two discs.

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