Siberia(Home Vision Entertainment, 1.18.2005)
This uniquely unpleasant Dutch import tells the story of Hugo and Goof, a pair of unemployed roommates who spend their days sleeping with tourists, stealing their money, and ripping pages out of their passports. This pattern repeats itself until Goof falls in love with one of his victims and, after she moves into his apartment, the partners-in-crime struggle to adapt. What follows is an endless parade of betrayal, sexual deviance, theft, and vacuous, reprehensible characters.
Siberia is over-flowing with style and visual razzmatazz but it all feels poorly thought-out and arbitrary. In fact, the whole film plays like the hedonistic European vacation sequence in The Rules of Attraction but without the formal control, imagination, and compassion found elsewhere in that film. There's talent here but not a talent for intelligent, narrative filmmaking.
Watching Siberia, you're left with dozens of puzzling questions about its intent and relevance. For example, what is Corey Haim's ex-girlfriend (and "Charles in Charge" veteran) Nicole Eggert doing in the film?
In his brief liner notes, film critic Rick Cline offers background on director Robert Jan Westdijk who was apparently hailed as the king of "New Dutch Cinema" (whatever that means) after Siberia's 1998 release but struggled for five years to get his next project (Phileine Says Sorry) financed. Surprisngly, Cline also claims that Dogme 95, the film's stylistic opposite, was a major influence on Westdijk.
Cline also groups Siberia with two similarly stylized, Trainspotting-inspired films from the same year: Run Lola Run and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. To be fair, I'm not particularly fond of these films either and that may explain my frustration with Siberia. All three films share a tiresome pre-occupation with ridiculous, one-dimensional characters and no moral worldview or consciousness, whatsoever. However, if you can forgive the filmmakers' immaturity (I can't), I guess these films share an energy and vitality that distinguishes them, to some degree.
The only other feature is a 30 second trailer that's really just a clip from the film. However, fans of Siberia should be pleased with Home Vision's widescreen, anamorphic transfer (1.85:1). Although I'm not crazy about Westdijk's derivative visual style -- flourishes of black-and-white, multiple film formats, time-lapse photography, over-exposed lighting, and canted camera angles, all reminiscent of Natural Born Killers -- the transfer conveys that style nicely.
While I can't personally recommend Siberia, I'd advise fans of Guy Ritchie, Tom Tykwer, and Danny Boyle to give it a chance. It's not my cup of tea but it might be yours. -- Jonathan Doyle