by Lawrence Garcia Film

Fausto | Andrea Bussmann

March 28, 2019

Frequently inscrutable and often enveloped in literal darkness, Andrea Bussmann’s Fausto offers the latest (cinematic) rumination on the foundational myth of man’s dealings with the devil. Mostly filmed along Mexico’s Oaxacan coast, the movie offers vistas shrouded in mystery — landscapes seemingly untouched by time and flush with a sense of the unknowable. Like the director’s previous feature, The Tales of Two Who Dreamt (co-directed with Nicolás Pereda), Fausto is a collection of oral histories and local legends all subtly, obliquely linked to the origin tale. Ghosts and shadowy figures loom large in the tellings of various interlocutors; animals and their distinct perceptual faculties figure prominently as well.

Throughout the film, hazy low-light images (shot on digital, then rephotographed on 16mm) continually ask the viewer to remain open to the “conscious coexistence” of the universe. And yet, despite Bussmann’s considered intellectual framework, there’s an unproductive tedium to her approach, which often shrouds its most direct ideas (e.g. the way cinema defaults to human modes of perception) with coy suggestion and limiting obfuscation. (“What is the difference between man and dog?” a man asks in voice-over. “Here, they are the same.”) Fausto’s key image is of a single point of light, flashing in and out of inky blackness; but its lingering impression is of a formless haze.

Published as part of New Directors/New Films 2019 | Dispatch 1.