Impeccably formalized but rife with dissonance, The Sun charts the last days in the rule of Japanese emperor Hirohito (Issei Ogata). The third entry in Aleksandr Sokurov’s “Men of Power” series, this haunting portrait of the vanquished WWII Japanese leader is another of the Russian Ark auteur’s strange, beguiling ruminations on mortality and power, here revolving around the nearly otherworldly uneasiness that surrounds Hirohito and his doting underlings on the eve of his 1945 meeting-cum-surrender to General Douglas MacArthur (Robert Dawson). Sokurov’s film sidesteps deep inquiry into the global historical events at play in favor of fixating rigidly on Hirohito’s inner life. The action is confined to a series of static, eerily tranquil sequences in which Hirohito – in rooms whose silence is broken up only by ominously discordant buzzing and humming that suggest the sound of a monumental machine grinding toward an inevitable, unpleasant death – is dressed, studies marine biology, writes poetry, flips through a photo album and, in the film’s one unhinged expressionistic moment, dreams of Tokyo’s firebombing as a nightmare of flying fish. There’s more than a whiff of Tarkovsky (a director Sokurov favors, and is often compared to) as well as Kubrick to these unsettling proceedings, though if the material is beset by grave melancholy, humor also sporadically materializes to push the atmosphere toward mesmeric disorder. Throughout, Hirohito’s inability (as well as that of those around him) to fully grasp the historic moment of transition taking place – both in terms of Japan’s notions of dominant-culture identity and the idea of the emperor’s supposed status as a deity rather than a man – is persistent and disconcerting, the film infused with a sense of political and psychological fracturing. In Ogata’s masterfully mannered performance, his eyes cast into thousand-mile-stares, his comportment unnaturally stiff and yet dignified, and his mouth slightly open and often silently mouthing incomprehensible mutterings, The Sun brings both humanity and borderline-alien peculiarity to its examination of tectonic internal and external changes. It finds beauty, madness and outright bizarreness in the sight of a lost, slightly freakish man attempting to understand his altering reality, and enact his own rebirth from god to man, while trapped in a disorienting fugue.