Mother and Son (1997)

Dir. Aleksandr Sokurov

I liked this film, and I would recommend it to Kevin. Other idiots might also find interest in the film. Read more to find out. Deserving of being included in the 1001 book, imo.

I remember people talking about the beautiful landscape shots in recent films like Brokeback Mountain and There Will Be Blood. The shots in those films never really grabbed me, and I attribute (or blame) that on Terrence Malick. He’s spoiled me. Along comes Mother and Son, and while I can’t say the scenes of nature are better, they did really impress me. I’ll go into that more later.

The film barely has a plot: a son is taking care of his sick mother. They talk and go for walk. That’s about it. But the movie is really not about the characters or story–at least not developed through dialogue–but rather about visual poetry. Think of a movie made up of a series of portraits or landscape painting, and you get the general idea. The actors move very little and when they do it creates an effect of watching a painting where the human figures make subtle movements, a change in facial expression or position of the body.

Many of the shots look like some paintings–sometimes reminiscent of Impressionism or mroe realistic painting styles of say the19th Century (e.g. Rembrandt). The light, coming from mostly overcast clouds creates a pale and faded painted look to the screen. Supposedly Sukurov also shot the film through glass giving some of the shots a hazy and even distorted look. I liked the film simply based on the photography alone.

This leads me to some interpretation of the film. Honestly, I don’t really have much of an interpretation. The mother is very sick and ends up dying in the end. The son seems to kill himself at that point, telling his mom to wait for him in the afterworld. What happens in between?

The mother wants to go for a walk. The two first sit on a bench while the son reads and looks at her mother’s old postcards. There’s one from a former lover or husband. They take a walk, stopping at several points to sit. I can’t remember specifics of the conversation. I think the mother feels regret for the son because he has to take care of her.

When they arrive back at the house, the son leaves his mother and goes for a walk by himself. He sees a train in the distance. Then he goes by a tree and starts sobbing. Why? I’m not really sure. Does he feel trapped? Is he crying because his mother is dying? I don’t really have any opinions. I’d probably have to watch it again. But the visuals alone made this a satisfying film experience.

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