As a follow-up to his critically hailed, history-spanning Russian Ark, Russian director Aleksandr Sokurov resumes probing the intimate bonds between children and parents with Father and Son, the second of a planned trilogy that began with 1997's Mother and Son. A wistful, ethereal allegory about the ties that inextricably bind men and their male offspring to each other, the film - difficult as it is rewarding - substitutes narrative coherence and dramatic conventions with a rapturously elliptical impressionism. The result is an entrancing dream-state of blended memories, hallucinations, and desires that the director utilizes to exhibit the ways in which a young father (Andrei Shchetinin) and his dutiful son (Aleksei Nejmyshev) learn to cope with the growing realization that their tender relationship must change to survive.
Sokurov begins his film with a collage of nude limbs grabbing, wrestling, contorting, and comforting one another that eventually reveals itself to be the father cradling the son after a nightmare. "You saved me," says the young teen, who - even without the physical resemblance of their unclothed torsos - looks strikingly like his handsome, stout dad. Yet as we soon discover, the son's nightmares have been populated with scenes of him murdering his father. The story's central conflict lies in these disturbing visions, which make up both the beginning and end of the film and, with lyrical obliqueness, portray the father-son union as primary and yet beset by an inevitable, inescapable need for both parties to eventually craft distinct, individual lives.
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