London Film Festival 2020: Siberia review – a truly weird journey, but one worth taking

Siberia film review 2020

Lff2020 banner

Starring Willem Dafoe, Dounia Sichov, Simon McBurney, Cristina Chiriac, Daniel Giménez Cacho. Directed by. Directed by Abel Ferrera.

There are very few ways to properly describe the strange nightmare world of Siberia, the sixth collaboration from Abel Ferrera and Willem Dafoe, but here’s the old college try anyway.

Following Clint an American who now runs a tiny bar in Siberia, he takes a sled pulled by dogs on a journey to a cave, and things get weird.

Siberia is gorgeous to look at, it’s shot beautifully, with locations not limited to the strange mint-coloured snowscape that the title would suggest. Instead, it offers up a delicious plethora of locales with which to feast your eyes on. It’s great cinematography filled with mood and atmosphere — at times remote and cold, other times intimate, but always visually arresting.

None of it would hold together if it weren’t for Willem Dafoe in the leading role. Only an actor of his magnitude, and let’s face it, his talent, could pull this off. Even when he’s simply cutting a fish open, or dancing by himself, he’s a truly magnetic presence.

Willem Dafoe in Siberia

Willem Dafoe in Siberia.

The film, however, is a weird one, and at times so out there it’s hard to invest in anything other than shaking your head and going “okay then”. It’s dreamlike, though at times descends into nightmares, with logic that is likely to only appeal to the most artistically inclined. 

It’d be pompous if it weren’t so strange, the kind of film that needs to be watched while cranking Dark Side of the Moon on full blast and getting blazed on the biggest spliff you can get your hands on. It’s experiential as much as you watch it, it’s about a mood and take rather than a narrative you can follow. 

The film boasts sex, nudity, Dafoe being attacked by a bear, him playing with a toy horse and very little else, which makes it perfect for festival viewing, but it is still a film that feels distinctly odd, and yet at one with the bizarre career of both Ferrara and Dafoe. It just scrambles your head along the way.

Share this


Paul Klein

Paul is Film & Media Editor @ No Majesty. Paul is a Film Studies Graduate from London, and former writer at The Metropolist.