Sure to alienate casual viewers, this challenging, searching, strange odyssey may ensnare those who know their psychology or are more than passingly familiar with the work of director Abel Ferrara. Siberia -- not to be confused with the 2018 Keanu Reeves movie -- is the sixth collaboration between Ferrara and Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe; their intense, interior working relationship has Dafoe often playing on-screen surrogates for Ferrara, with their shared experiences shaping the stories. (Their last film was the more cohesive, emotional Tommaso.) This one, inspired by the writings of Carl Jung, is bizarre, often shocking, and sometimes absurd.
While many of Ferrara's films sneak in strange, startling moments that could almost be dreams or nightmares, he's essentially a realist, typically dabbling in scuzzy, urban landscapes and characters who've truly tasted of life. So he can't quite pull off an entire movie's worth of dream state. Even though many of the film's images are quite affecting, there's too much structure in Siberia, too many sharp angles. It doesn't flow as truthfully as, say, a David Lynch movie might. Yet the connective thread is Dafoe, with a fully committed, earnest performance of a man seeking compassion and understanding. It's a most unusual journey, and a mostly rewarding one.