For a movie called Faust, director Alexander Sokurov takes his sweet time getting to the money shot. The film is at least three-quarters done by the time Faust—here a philosophical surgeon in a grubby, early-19th-century German village—gets around to signing away his soul to the devil. But this is only one of the many variations the Russian filmmaker has played on the famous tale, a delirious and destabilizing version that took the top prize at the 2011 Venice Film Festival.
After a wild special-effects shot that descends from the heavens (a flight through the clouds that perhaps pays homage to a similar sequence in F.W. Murnau’s great silent Faust from 1926), we meet Faust (Johannes Zeiler) in the middle of an autopsy.