Russian filmmaker Alexander Sokurov brings an engaging exploration of art and history to the screen with his latest project, Francofonia, a movie about the Louvre Museum in Paris and the stories within its walls.
The feature explores the history of the gallery from the Renaissance to the present, interweaving archive film footage with re-enacted scenes of past events that are central to the story of the Louvre in the wartime years.
Sokurov’s previous exploration of the art world through film was Russian Ark, released 14 years ago, which was shot in a single take, traversing the Hermitage museum in St Petersburg. It was well-received as an absorbing look at humanity’s need to express itself through creativity.
Francofonia on the other hand relies on arresting interwoven visuals accompanied by the director’s own narration; a monologue inviting the audience to consider the nature of European art. The sweeping aerial drone footage of Paris and accompanying words show great affection for a city that has been so central to the art world.
The film revolves largely around one important historical event: the Nazi invasion of Paris in May 1940. After the occupation, German Count Franz Wolff-Metternich (played by Benjamin Utzerath) becomes responsible for assessing the works that had been removed from the Louvre and dispersed around France. This requires him to liaise with the Louvre’s director, Jacques Jaujard (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing), in a fraught working relationship that somehow develops into something resembling a friendship over the course of the narrative.
Sokurov’s movie is a sophisticated examination of the French art world and will certainly appeal to those interested in that subject’s history and the Second World War. For those not already acquainted with these particular aspects of the past it could be a little too slow, although there is certainly plenty to learn about this much-visited tourist attraction and its hidden stories.
Francofonia is released in selected cinemas on 11th November 2016.
Watch the trailer for Francofonia here: