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Victor Kossakovsky Architecton


Architecton | 2024 Berlin Intl. Film Festival Review

Architecton | 2024 Berlin Intl. Film Festival Review

Judgment in Stone: Kossakovsky Gazes Into the Concrete Jungle

Victor Kossakovsky Architecton reviewCelebrated documentarian Viktor Kossakovsky explores our complex relationship with concrete in the abstract visual feast, Architecton. For those familiar with his previous explorations, such as 2020’s Gunda, in which we follow a sow whose piglets are eventually removed from her care for slaughter, Kossakovsky employs an unstructured visual aesthetic of observation. Contemplative, meditative and mesmerizing, his latest utilizes the juxtaposition of past and present ruins, from ancient Lebanon to contemporary Ukraine as an exploration for our modern methods designed for destruction, destined to pollute. A circle of life emerges through this roving collage of images, a circle we’ve interrupted through our harmful use of concrete in a world where our manipulation of space has been reduced to a dangerous uniformity.

Kossakovsky bookends Architecton with a prologue and an epilogue, the former being drone footage sailing through destroyed buildings in Ukraine. Compared to ancient ruins built from crumbling stone edifices, these are sites of wreckage which will not be destined as remnants of wonder. This segues into a remarkably photographed rock slide, mother nature’s own shapeshifting of her building blocks, in ways eventually used by humankind to mold stones into grand facades built to stand the test of time. The union of Ben Bernhard’s cinematography and a score from Evgueni Galperine prove an intoxicating mix to behold throughout.

As we drift through the ruins of the past, a portrait emerges juxtaposing the inherent differences regarding the materials and designs of the present. In essence, we are in a world being built for inherent destruction and with substances we are unable to repurpose, at direct odds with nature’s own constant cycle. In between these visual soliloquies, Italian architect Michele De Lucchi is on hand building a circular stone garden in his backyard, the symbolism of its intention eventually made clear by the design. Selecting the last stone in his assortment to complete the project, he remarks on the most beautiful—a smooth sphere.

Details are not often forthcoming in what we’re gazing upon in Architecton, but a 2023 earthquake in Turkey yields one of the film’s more recent landscapes of destruction. De Lucchi also has a conversation with a man who has spent three decades cleaning temple ruins, though their inability to speak a common language mirrors our own eternal pondering of how such architectural feats were once accomplished. While some may feel the film’s epilogue, in which De Lucchi is prodded to answer questions already signified by the visual splendors of the film, it also feels a necessarily blunt way to confirm how our modern methods of construction are not only harmful to the environment but numbing to the human spirit of those who build them and those who live in them.

Reviewed on February 19th at the 2024 Berlin International Film Festival – Main Competition section. 98 mins.


Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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