Silence and Fog. On Gesture, Time, and Historicity in the Films of Aleksandr Sokurov

Ivan Pintor Iranzo


In this study, I analyse gesture, iconography, and landscape construction in Aleksandr Sokurov’s films to reveal their distinct handling of time and commitment to the historicity of their imagery. My hermeneutic point of departure is Aby Warburg’s alternative approach to the historicity of images, in particular his attention to the mechanisms of montage along with the anthropological aspiration to formulate a history of gesture transmission in the West. Warburg’s project can shed light on certain aspects of Sokurov’s poetics, specifically on its relationship to literary, pictorial, and cinematic traditions. The gesture of silence, the so-called signum harpocraticum, holds a central position in Sokurov’s filmography underscoring the condition of mediality of the cinematic gesture itself. The gesture of silence establishes the deixis of a historical-political openness and of a dialectical moment through which the figure of the historical witness takes shape. As a reverse shot to this direct appeal to the spectator, images of fog, tempest, and storm promote not only a haptic visibility but also  represent the mists of history. In these mists, Sokurov attempts to tease out and ultimately “seize hold of a memory at a moment of danger” (Walter Benjamin). The historical, the political, and the sacred are located in Sokurov’s films between the gesture of silence and the depiction of fog.


Aleksandr Pushkin; Lev Tolstoi; Aleksandr Sokurov; Aby Warburg; Gilles Deleuze; Giorgio Agamben; Serge Daney; Artavazd Peleshian; Georges Didi-Huberman; Walter Benjamin; iconology; gesture; silence; signum harpocraticum; fog; storm; haptic visuality

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Apparatus. ISSN 2365-7758