Genuinely Imperfect: Our Review of ‘Fausto’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - April 12, 2019
Genuinely Imperfect: Our Review of ‘Fausto’

Andrea Bussmann’s film Fausto requires repeat viewings, which is typical of art house documentaries. But those second and third times with the movie tries to expose the documentary’s themes, regardless of first impressions. Taking her audience to a secluded beach in Oaxaca, Mexico, it captures both human and animal life there. And with this, she plays with film as both a visual and aural medium, as she should. She sometimes shows a beach staple – a blue sky and and waves crashing into shore. The purity of those visuals allows us to contemplate, a frustrating yet refreshing contrast to the busy mise-en-scene of mainstream cinema. This might be obvious to most people but it bears repeating that the idea of a beach alone evokes the idea of a vacation. Which is not what we’re going to get here.

That’s mostly because of what Bussmann shows after she leaves the beach. Much of the film shows – if you can call it that – the darkness.  When nocturnal animals come alive and make their presence known through the sounds they make. One or two filmmakers use total darkness in their work, but she doesn’t quite make the same mistake. Flashes of light try to guide the audience out of the darkness, which might actually be more frightening. Is that something slithering through a forest, or a person trying to walk an unlit road? A few lamps still have light on them, looking like jellyfish under miles of sea. Darkness, as she shows, makes the mind compare the figures within to other creatures.

Eventually, the film gets to the humans, the locals. Most of these locals are men either wearing tank tops or are shirtless, the dim lighting adding an erotic mood to the film, if not outright homoerotic. The female gaze doesn’t always look at men but when it does, it adheres to a language in a patriarchal art form. But this doesn’t necessarily call for a system overhaul. Neither is Bussmann’s gaze hostile, even if it’s not the most trusting. They’re the audience’s guides to this world and they’re mostly reliable. She records these men’s stories of other men selling themselves to the devil, a kind of story that gets rarer by the generation. So hearing them here has the intended affect to scare us, a reminder that people still do this.

That man’s story brings the audience back to the film’s title, a Spanish version of the medieval legend popularized by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Faust haunts us even if we’re oceans away from him. There’s something frustrating about the comparison. I wish we knew more about Indigenous and non European stories so that we can stop calling things “Asian Snow White” or “Bollywood does Dickens.” But stories about men selling their souls or other men digging two graves for their daughters are, again, refreshing. Monsters, to us, are just humans who make our lives slightly difficult. We have to go far, maybe two countries away, to hear about real ones. Bussman, despite of her imperfect approach, makes us feel like all of these stories and their versions are real.

Fausto is currently playing at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

  • Release Date: 4/12/2019
This post was written by
While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
Comments are closed.
(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,'script','//','ga'); ga('create', 'UA-61364310-1', 'auto'); ga('send', 'pageview');