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Russian Ark2002

  • 4.2
Russian filmmaker Alexander Sokurov (THE SUN) broke boundaries with his dreamlike vision of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, RUSSIAN ARK. It's the first feature-length narrative film shot in a single take (on digital video, using a specially designed disc instead of tape). RUSSIAN ARK is shot from the point-of-view of an unseen narrator, as he explores the museum and travels through Russian history. The audience sees through his eyes as he witnesses Peter the Great (Maksim Sergeyev) abusing one of his generals; Catherine the Great (Maria Kuznetsova) desperately searching for a bathroom; and, in the grand finale, the sumptuous Great Royal Ball of 1913. The narrator is eventually joined by a sarcastic and eccentric 19th century French Marquis (Sergey Dreiden), who travels with him throughout the huge grounds, encountering various historical figures and viewing the legendary artworks on display. While the narrator only interacts with the Marquis (he seems to be invisible to all the other inhabitants), the Marquis occasionally interacts with visitors and former residents of the museum. The film was obviously shot in one day, but the cast and crew rehearsed for months to time their movements precisely with the flow of the camera while capturing the complex narrative, with elaborate costumes from different periods, and several trips out to the exterior of the museum. Tilman Buttner, the director of photography, was responsible for capturing it all in one single Steadicam shot. In Russian with English subtitles.

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1 member likes this review

The Russian Ark, much like Russian history itself, never ceases to amaze. Sokurov's--outside of Mother and Son--crowning achievement. At the time the film was shot it was certainly innovative in the way it was shot tracking continuously with a Steadicam. But what makes the way Russian Ark was filmed stand out is the fact that it is not a gimmick, the fluidity of the camera as the viewer is led through Russian history creates a sense of urgency and reinforces the universal reminder that no one can stop time, and as the revolution grows closer the visceral experience that the unbroken long take was creating only escalates as the audience knows what is waiting outside The Winter Palace.

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Member Reviews (5)

Technically and visually impressive. The Hermitage is a natural, perfect movie set, and the costumes are beautiful. However, there isn't much here. The symbolism is obscured by sentimentality and martyrdom. In the wake of his friendship with Putin, anti-human rights views and disappointing lack of growth as a musician, the lingering fawning over Maestro Gergiev gives the film a different, perhaps unintended historic reference.

2 members like this review

The Russian Ark, much like Russian history itself, never ceases to amaze. Sokurov's--outside of Mother and Son--crowning achievement. At the time the film was shot it was certainly innovative in the way it was shot tracking continuously with a Steadicam. But what makes the way Russian Ark was filmed stand out is the fact that it is not a gimmick, the fluidity of the camera as the viewer is led through Russian history creates a sense of urgency and reinforces the universal reminder that no one can stop time, and as the revolution grows closer the visceral experience that the unbroken long take was creating only escalates as the audience knows what is waiting outside The Winter Palace.

1 member likes this review
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This totally lost me. I wanted to like it, but bailed out at 25 minutes. If someone makes it through, maybe they can throw out a trip-til for the rest of us.

Meh. Basically an excuse a tour of the Hermitage. Some of the costumed scenes, with casts of 1000's, are fun. Not recommended.

This film is almost unique in it's respect for its audience. The director assumes at least basic knowledge of the subject, whether it be Russian history, architecture or European art, and he doesn't spoon-feed the facts as if the film were a documentary. Most of all, he doesn't want the viewer to be passive; Iooking into so many faces seemingly unaware of a camera, I was often swept away into a brief reverie about each individual's life and momentary enthusiasms. I returned to the memory of individuals after the finish. There are many movies to be seen within this one. The result is that I could watch Russian Ark again and again and it will never be the same!