Abel Ferrara’s Siberia, screened in the Competition section of the 70th Berlin International Film Festival, is based on the promise of the uncanny fields which have strangely the safety of a home. In this sense, Siberia was one of the festival’s most remarkable films. Ferrara revealed the harmonious contrasts of spaces, colors, dialogues and existence.
Willem Dafoe, playing the character of Clint in the lead role, travels to the depths of Hell just like Dante, in Siberia. However, his journey allows a total discovery: The Hell of director Ferrara is a true paradise for Clint, one might say. Siberia is actually the location of the promised, utopian lands. The story of the film is the reflection of the painful memories of Clint, who has problems with the underground, the world of ghosts, the future of social life and continuity, and these memories run deep in Clint’s world.
Siberia, as an uncanny area ripped apart from its geographical reality, makes the paralyzing effect in the memories of those who visit it and with the culture of remembering and the memory of all known memory, it makes sure that this unprecedented experience lasts forever. Clint’s indescribable existential sufferings are like a visit to the transcendence to Siberia. Every visitor encountering the absence of Siberia’s entrance and exit gates remains here in fear. From the first scenes of the movie, we see Clint as the owner of a bar. In a sense, this bar represents Siberia, and we constantly see the visitors coming in and out of that bar, as passengers going to hell.
Pain of Existence
Ferrara’s deconstructive design in Siberia is an expression of the uncanniness that Clint created in some way. We see this in the bar scene, where foreigners who speak only their mother tongue are in contact with Clint and they buy a drink. In this scene, everyone is still communicating with each other only when they speak their own language. Clint give their drinks to these strangers who come to his bar and act as if both parties know each other. There’s existential suffering on both sides and language does not create any obstacle in sharing the pain.
Ferrara shows us not only the existential dilemmas of the characters, but also the existential distress of the space in the snowy lands of Siberia. While one may think that snow creates a peaceful place, Ferrara’s Siberia is far from this imagined peace. Here, there is a white curtain made of snow, only to cover Hell. Adorned with mythical facts, Siberia literally gives the audience a philosophical service with dialogues in the atmosphere that makes strong references to Nietzsche. Therefore, we can see that the visual tempo is trying to keep the pace with the film’s dialogue rhythm.
In the Gulf of Communication
Siberia, where we can easily feel the transitions of dreamy stereotypes, keeps the audience afloat with the possibility of apocalypse at any time. Each sequence of the movie must be carefully followed in order to place the pieces of the puzzle in their correct places. You can interpret this movie, whose language, visual world and characters are troubled, for a promised, yet hellish exile.
Siberia, a kind of supernatural gateway for Clint, also reveals his deep memories with his father, but the film never shows a clear indication of what this character’s real suffering is. Sometimes, sequence transitions may be very different from the chronological order that the viewers design for themselves. But this achronological storytelling grows easily on the viewer. The doors, windows, passages, holes, lids and every object in the film turn Siberia into an existential battleground. And we watch the hero passing through all the six rivers of Hades, especially Styx, Acheron and Lethe.