Alexander Sokurov

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Alexander Sokurov
Александр Сокуров
In a press conference during Fajr Film Festival
Born (1951-06-14) 14 June 1951 (age 72)
Podorvikha, Irkutsky District, Soviet Union
Alma materNizhny Novgorod University
Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography
OccupationFilm director
Years active1978–present
TitlePeople's Artist of Russia (2004)

Alexander Nikolayevich Sokurov, PAR (Russian: Александр Николаевич Сокуров; born 14 June 1951) is a Russian filmmaker.[1] His most significant works include a feature film, Russian Ark (2002), filmed in a single unedited shot, and Faust (2011), which was honoured with the Golden Lion, the highest prize for the best film at the Venice Film Festival.[2]

Life and work[edit]

Sokurov was born in Podorvikha, Irkutsky District, in Siberia, into a military officer's family. He graduated from the History Department of the Nizhny Novgorod University in 1974 and entered one of the VGIK studios the following year. There he became friends with Tarkovsky and was deeply influenced by his film Mirror. Most of Sokurov's early features were banned by Soviet authorities. During his early period, he produced numerous documentaries, including The Dialogues with Solzhenitsyn and a reportage about Grigori Kozintsev's flat in Saint Petersburg. His film Mournful Unconcern was nominated for the Golden Bear at the 37th Berlin International Film Festival in 1987.[3]

Mother and Son (1997) was his first internationally acclaimed feature film. It was entered into the 20th Moscow International Film Festival where it won the Special Silver St. George.[4] It was mirrored by Father and Son (2003), which baffled the critics with its implicit homoeroticism (though Sokurov himself has criticized this particular interpretation).[5] Susan Sontag included two Sokurov features among her ten favorite films of the 1990s, saying: "There’s no director active today whose films I admire as much."[6] In 2006, he received the Master of Cinema Award of the International Filmfestival Mannheim-Heidelberg.

Sokurov is a Cannes Film Festival regular, with four of his movies having debuted there. However, until 2011, Sokurov didn't win top awards at major international festivals. For a long time, his most commercially and critically successful film was the semi-documentary Russian Ark (2002), acclaimed primarily for its visually hypnotic images and single unedited shot.

Sokurov has filmed a tetralogy exploring the corrupting effects of power. The first three installments were dedicated to prominent 20th-century rulers: Moloch (1999), about Hitler, Taurus (2001), about Lenin, and The Sun (2005) about Hirohito. In 2011, Sokurov shot the last part of the series, Faust, a retelling of Goethe's tragedy. The film, depicting instincts and schemes of Faust in his lust for power, premiered on 8 September 2011 in competition at the 68th Venice International Film Festival.[7] The film won the Golden Lion, the highest award of the Venice Festival.[2] Producer Andrey Sigle said about Faust: "The film has no particular relevance to contemporary events in the world – it is set in the early 19th century – but reflects Sokurov's enduring attempts to understand man and his inner forces."[8]

The military world of the former USSR is one of Sokurov's ongoing interests, because of his personal connections to the subject and because the military marked the lives of a large part of population of the USSR. Three of his works, Spiritual Voices: From the Diaries of a War, Confession, From the Commander’s Diary and Soldier’s Dream revolve around military life. Confession has been screened at several independent film festivals, while the other two are virtually unknown.[9]

In 1994 Sokurov accompanied Russian troops to a post on the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border. The result was Spiritual Voices: From the Diaries of a War, a 327-minute cinematic meditation on the war and the spirit of the Russian army. Landscape photography is featured in the film, but the music (including works by Mozart, Messiaen and Beethoven) and the sound are also particularly important. Soldiers' jargon and the combination of animal sounds, sighs and other location sounds in the fog and other visual effects give the film a phantasmagorical feel. The film brings together all the elements that characterize Sokurov's films: long takes, elaborate filming and image processing methods, a mix of documentary and fiction, the importance of the landscape and the sense of a filmmaker who brings transcendence to everyday gestures.[9]

On the journey from Russia to the border post, in the film, fear never leaves the faces of the young soldiers. Sokurov captures their physical toil and their mental desolation, as well as daily rituals such as meals, sharing tobacco, writing letters and cleaning duties. There is no start or end to the dialogues; Sokurov negates conventional narrative structure. The final part of the film celebrates the arrival of the New Year, 1995, but the happiness is fleeting. The following day, everything remains the same: the endless waiting at a border post, the fear and the desolation.[9]

In Confession: From the Commander’s Diary, Sokurov films officers from the Russian Navy, showing the monotony and lack of freedom of their everyday lives. The dialogue allows us to follow the reflections of a Ship Commander. Sokurov and his crew went aboard a naval patrol ship headed for Kuvshinka, a naval base in the Murmansk region, in the Barents Sea. Confined within the limited space of a ship anchored in Arctic waters, the team filmed the sailors as they went about their routine activities.[9]

Soldier's Dream is another Sokurov film that deals with military themes. It contains no dialogue. This film actually came out of the material edited for one of the scenes in part three of Spiritual Voices. Soldier's Dream was screened at the Oberhausen Film Festival in Germany in 1995 – when Spiritual Voices was still at the editing stage – as Sokurov's homage to the art critic and historian Hans Schlegel, in acknowledgement of his contributions in support of Eastern European filmmakers.[9]

He suffers from severe eyesight problems.[10]


In 2010 Sokurov launched his personal course at the Kabardino-Balkarian State University in Nalchik.[11] In 2015, 12 students graduated from his course; among them were such rising stars of cinema, as Kantemir Balagov,[12] Vladimir Bitokov, Kira Kovalenko,[13] and Alexander Zolotukhin.[14][15]

Political stance[edit]

During a December 2016 meeting of the Council for Culture and Arts, Sokurov appealed to President Vladimir Putin to reconsider the verdict against filmmaker Oleg Sentsov (which Putin refused).[16]

In 2022, Sokurov criticized Kremlin and opposed the war in Ukraine. For this, in June 2022 he was denied the right to leave Russia.[17]

In October 2023, Sokurov's film Fairytale was banned in Russia. No specific reason was given, only subparagraph “zh” of the rules on the issuance of release certificates was cited: “in other cases determined by federal laws.” Sokurov emphasized that censorship is prohibited in Russia and no one has the right to restrict the Russian audience’s access to works of art. “Because the movie has already been shown and is being shown all over the world,” he said.[18][19][20]


Feature films[edit]

Year Title Credited as Notes
Director Writer
1987 Mournful Unconcern Yes No produced in 1983
1987 The Lonely Voice of Man Yes Yes produced in 1979
1988 Days of Eclipse Yes No
1989 Save and Protect Yes No
1990 The Second Circle Yes No
1992 The Stone Yes No
1994 Whispering Pages Yes Yes
1997 Mother and Son Yes No
1999 Moloch Yes No
2001 Taurus Yes No also cinematographer
2002 Russian Ark Yes Yes
2003 Father and Son Yes No
2005 The Sun Yes No also cinematographer
2007 Alexandra Yes Yes
2011 Faust Yes Yes
2015 Francofonia Yes Yes
2022 Fairytale Yes Yes

Other works[edit]

  • The Degraded (Разжалованный, 1980)
  • Sonata for Viola. Dmitri Shostakovitch (1981)
  • Empire (Ампир, 1986)
  • Elegy (1986)
  • And Nothing More (1987)
  • Evening Sacrifice (1987)
  • Patience of Labour (1987)
  • Maria (Peasant Elegy) (1988)
  • Moscow Elegy (1988)
  • Sonata for Hitler (1989)
  • Soviet Elegy (1989)
  • Petersburg Elegy (1990)
  • To The Events In Transcaucasia (1990)
  • A Simple Elegy (1990)
  • A Retrospection of Leningrad (1957–1990) (1990)
  • An Example of Intonation (1991)
  • Elegy from Russia (1992)
  • Soldier's Dream (1995)
  • Spiritual Voices (1995)
  • Oriental Elegy (1996)
  • Robert. A Fortunate Life (1997)
  • A Humble Life (1997)
  • The St. Petersburg Diary: Inauguration of a monument to Dostoevsky (1997)
  • The St. Petersburg Diary: Kosintsev's Flat (1998)
  • Confession (1998)
  • The Dialogues with Solzhenitsyn (1998)
  • dolce… (1999)
  • Elegy of a Voyage (2001)
  • The St. Petersburg Diary: Mozart. Requiem (2004)
  • Elegy of a life: Rostropovich, Vishnevskaya (2006)



  1. ^ Peter Rollberg (2016). Historical Dictionary of Russian and Soviet Cinema. US: Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 696–700. ISBN 978-1442268425.
  2. ^ a b Vivarelli, Nick (10 September 2011). "'Faust' wins Golden Lion at Venice". Variety. Retrieved 10 September 2011.
  3. ^ "Berlinale: 1987 Prize Winners". Retrieved 1 March 2011.
  4. ^ "20th Moscow International Film Festival (1997)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 22 March 2013. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
  5. ^ ""Sokurov's From Russia With Man-Love", by Fernando F. Croce,". Archived from the original on 9 September 2016. Retrieved 6 July 2015.
  6. ^ The Second Circle and The Stone 2000» March. Retrieved on 13 September 2011.
  7. ^ "Faust – Aleksander Sokurov". Venice Biennale. Archived from the original on 23 March 2012. Retrieved 7 September 2011.
  8. ^ Holdsworth, Nick (12 May 2009). "'Faust' finishes Russian 'trilogy'". Variety. Retrieved 25 January 2011.
  9. ^ a b c d e Spiritual Voices Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona. Original text licensed CC BY-SA by MACBA
  10. ^ Geoffrey Macnab, "Shot in the dark", Sydney Morning Herald, 11 January 2004. Retrieved 17 May 2016
  11. ^ Кувшинова М. (5 June 2014). "Кинотавр-2014: Малика и Марьяна" [Kinotavr-2014: Malika and Maryana] (in Russian). Seans. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
  12. ^ Karpuck, D. (3 August 2017). "Рецензия: "Теснота" Кантемира Балагова" [Kantemir Balagov 'Anguish'] (in Russian). The Hollywood Reporter Russia. Retrieved 11 August 2017.
  13. ^ Smyslov, V. (21 September 2021). "Двенадцать" [Twelve]. The Blueprint (in Russian). Retrieved 9 December 2021.
  14. ^ Ponelis, I. (29 July 2021). "Ученики Александра Сокурова, о которых мы ещё не раз услышим" [Sokurov's students we'll hear more about]. КиноРепортер (in Russian). Retrieved 15 March 2022.
  15. ^ Anisimova, E. (17 April 2018). "Знакомьтесь, Александр Золотухин – ученик Сокурова заканчивает дебютную картину "Слухач"" [Alexander Zolotukhin – Sokurov’s student finishes his debut film] (in Russian). Sobaka. Retrieved 30 June 2022.
  16. ^ Putin on revision of Sentsov verdict: "Appropriate conditions should ripen", UNIAN (2 December 2016)
  17. ^ "Film director Alexander Sokurov loses the right to leave Russia after Kremlin criticism". The Times UK. 27 June 2022. Retrieved 27 June 2022.
  18. ^ "The Ministry of Culture of Russia banned the screening of Alexander Sokurov's film "Fairytale"". News in France. 5 August 2022. Retrieved 19 October 2023.
  19. ^ "Sokurov's "Fairy Tale" Was Canceled in Russia: "Like in Soviet Times"". Time News. 16 October 2023. Retrieved 19 October 2023.
  20. ^ ""Just like in Soviet times": Sokurov's "Fairy Tale" was banned from being shown at the film festival in Moscow. Sokurov announced that his film "Fairy Tale" was banned from being shown at Karo.Art festival 10.13.2023, 21:30". Social Bites. 13 October 2023. Retrieved 19 October 2023.


  • The Cinema of Alexander Sokurov (Kino – The Russian Cinema), ed. by Birgit Beumers and Nancy Condee, London: Tauris I B, 2011

External links[edit]