Set in 18th century Germany, Johannes Zeiler plays the titular Heinrich Faust, a bored scholar frustrated with the mundane and poverty-stricken society in which he inhabits, a climate he believes is undeserving of his supposedly deep intellect. In an attempt to trade a precious ring in favour of money, Faust meets the mysterious Muller (the creepily dead-eyed Anton Adasinsky), a moneylender who begins to toy with Faust, eventually goading him into committing a murder which sends him on a hallucinatory descent checkered by lust and greed.
Playing fast and loose with soft focus, an effect that is somewhat analogous of the film's alienating approach to narrative definition, Sokurov appears to consciously mirror the aimlessness of Faust's strange journey into existential acquisition, an altogether cerebral quest for knowledge and the affections of the pallid Margarete (Isolda Dychauk).
A reputable reappraisal of Goethe's story, Faust, which won Sokurov the prestigious Golden Lion award at last year's Venice Film Festival, is visionary and chaotically surreal in both style and substance - a feverish delineation of the philosophical struggles between life and death, good and evil. Although it ostensibly proves to be a tough watch, once the fluid camerawork and overzealous set design begin to coalesce, it slowly manages to become a similarly rewarding one.