Challenging Abel Ferrara Film

Willem Dafoe teams up once more with director Abel Ferrara for Siberia, making surreal arthouse fare that paints a wildly provocative portrait of its protagonist. Delving deeply into the psyche of Dafoe’s character, Siberia is an intense fever dream and may serve as a personal allegory for Ferrara’s own journey. Siberia is surely not for casual audiences but arthouse consumers will find secret delights in Ferrara’s stark visuals and oddly poetic structure.

Hauntingly personal and driven, Siberia mostly acts as an acute vehicle for Dafoe’s compelling performance as Clint. The owner of an isolated bar in the frozen tundra, who may or may not be going through his death throes, Siberia’s fragmentary storytelling details the long, dark journey into a broken man’s soul. Clint travels through his memories and dream-like imagination in vivid vignettes meant to say something about his life.

Obtuse and mystifying, Siberia provides no easy answers

Clint has been described as Ferrara’s alter-ego in more than one press outing about Siberia. After working with Ferrara in the intimate and self-reflective Tommaso, Dafoe is a commanding presence as Clint. It’s a telling deconstruction of a man’s psyche as only a veteran filmmaker like Abel Ferrara could pull off.

The actual narrative mostly follows dream logic in a perplexing series of encounters over vastly different settings in time and place. Opening to a black screen with narration that goes on for nearly five minutes, Clint meets a wide range of different people visiting his remote bar in Siberia before venturing outside. The audience is never too sure what’s going on and the seemingly random encounters are often a way for Dafoe to work his magic.

One scene has Clint meeting a pregnant Russian woman alongside her mother, sharing drinks. It’s implied Clint is the father. Much later, Clint expresses regret for a poor marriage to his wife and how it affected their son. Clint recalls harrowing visions of his father in a cave and how it helped shaped him as a man. The dream-like material jumps in a largely satisfying method thanks to Ferrara’s experienced direction.

The movie often deals with Clint through the prism of his romantic entanglements with various women over his life. Siberia isn’t shy about his amorous encounters with graphic nudity. Ferrara goes for the jugular with provocative visuals enhanced by special effects.

Obtuse and mystifying, Siberia provides no easy answers. However, Willem Dafoe is captivating in the lead role. Siberia certainly isn’t for everyone. The off-beat psychological thriller from Abel Ferrara has unforgettable visuals in this darkly personal journey of the soul.


Impressive landscapes and immaculate cinematography highlight the beautiful Siberia. The 2.39:1 Blu-ray presentation is crisp with excellent shadow delineation. A majority of the film is near reference video quality.

The carefully manicured color grading trades in several different palettes depending on setting, from the wintry landscapes found in Siberia to far warmer desert settings. The 1080P definition is razor-sharp with fine depth and fantastic detail, clarity is abundant.

The main feature runs 91 minutes on a BD-25. The AVC encode isn’t poor but visible banding does affect a few scenes. It’s the only technical fault in what is an otherwise clean Hi-Def presentation by Lionsgate. The transfer reflects a thoroughly digital image capture without processing.


Siberia’s 5.1 DTS-HD MA surround mix boasts haunting immersion and nicely discrete sound design with clean dialogue reproduction. The audio is less front-heavy than one would expect, offering excellent ambient support and surprising directionality as prominent features.

This is a well-done mix that produces a moody atmosphere with real bite. Bass is tight and appropriately used when the scene calls for it. The musical highlight is an extended scene playing to Del Shannon’s hit “Runaway” from the Sixties with strong dynamics.

Optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles play in a white font, outside the scope presentation.


No real special features are included despite a movie screaming for a director’s commentary explaining Ferrara’s intentions. A nicely reflective slipcover is available. The included digital copy redeems in VUDU, FandangoNow, or iTunes in HDX quality.

Siberia Theatrical Trailer (02:02 in HD)

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A challenging surreal experience from veteran director Abel Ferrara and a captivating lead performance by Willem Dafoe.

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