Abel Ferrara is one of the most singular American filmmakers working today and has been for decades, that much is certain but one thing which seems to have gone unnoticed is his multiple collaborations with one of the most compulsively watchable actors working today, Willem Dafoe. These are two pretty great tastes which surely taste great together and their new film Siberia is very much testament to that.
First off, it would only be right to say that its very hard to describe what this film is as its tale of a man seemingly confronting his demons and being by turns disturbed and entertained by them envelopes you in its pure atmosphere. After an opening 15 minutes or so which wrong-foot you into thinking this is going to be a tale of Willem Dafoe: Siberian Bar Owner, something surely anyone would want to see, it instead takes a turn into pure oddity for the remainder of its runtime.
Dafoe dances with a rictus grin on his face, people become things other than themselves and the soundtrack shifts between moody score, classic pop and death metal, all feeling utterly appropriate despite their obvious differences. Ferrera has obviously been watching some Lynch but this is its own beast and bursts through any derivative parallels through sheer force of will most personified by Dafoe.
Dafoe has some pretty high level challenges here with the various persona he has to inhabit through his journey and he never misses a beat. His character seems to flit between encounters with a through line seeming to develop before being taken away again but he is fully engaged throughout and this helps get you grounded in the film’s mysterious world, one which you could easily float away from without him as an anchor.
It is likely that few could tell you what Siberia is about but as a pure experience its more than worth an hour of your time thanks to an uncompromising vision from Ferrera and a fully dialled in performance from Dafoe. Oh, and its also got one of the best jump scares I’ve seen this year outside of Host.