> Volume 6 > Number 22


Aleksander Sokurov

Andrei Shchetinin
Aleksei Nejmyshev
Aleksandr Razbash

Release: 18 Jun. 04

Father and Son


In what could be the clearest misconception of a film yet made, Alexander Sokurov, the wonderful Russian auteur finally getting sizable attention in the states, has attempted to drown accusations of homoeroticism by saying that his film Father and Son is the story of a chaste relationship between his two leads. How then does he explain the reclining bodies, thrust together in seemingly post-coital comfort? When the film opens, emulating Alain Resnais’ delicate camerawork of his characters’ skin in afterglow in Hiroshima, Mon Amour, there’s no question that these two men have a closeness that hints at the erotic.

What beautiful images he captures, but the underlying value is in the distinction between homoerotic and purity. He establishes that the kinship is close between father and son, likening it to their confines in the Russian Army, but his attempts to answer the very question that makes Father and Son such a mesmerizing work is to castrate it of its grandeur. This is like Ridley Scott making his declaration about Blade Runner’s ending, or Quentin Tarantino telling everyone what’s in Pulp Fiction’s glowing briefcase -- the beauty is in the mystery. The hints of gay incest is part of why the film’s triangle between father, son, and girlfriend is so dramatically impressive, with Sokurov positioning lusty glances among the angry discourse.

Posturing the film as a story of masculinity instead of clichéd fey homosexuality, Sokurov’s evidently wants this to be more of a story about his country’s Army, its years of atrocious mistakes in the name of Russian men’s superiority to the West and to Afghanistan. Both views -- the anti-patriot and the filial inbred -- is commanding in its statements on a civilization brought to its knees, left to atrophy after the end of communism. If Sokurov doesn’t want people to think of sex when considering his protagonists, he’s saying volumes about where his society still sits, retrogressing back to its pre-Lenin state. He might not see us as the impure ones thinking these things as we watch his film, but we wouldn’t if he didn’t make it so clear, even if unintentionally

©2004, David Perry,, 28 May 2004