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Russian Ark (2002)

2000 Actors. 300 years of Russian History. 33 Rooms at the Hermitage Museum. 3 Live Orchestras. 1 Single Continuous Shot.

Original Title : Russian Ark
Director : Aleksandr Sokurov
Writer : Boris Khaimsky
Anatoli Nikiforov
Svetlana Proskurina
Aleksandr Sokurov
Genre : Drama
Fantasy
Country : Russia
Language : Russian
Producer : Andrei Deryabin , Jens Meuer , Jens Meurer , Karsten Stöter
Music : Sergei Yevtushenko
Photography : Tilman Büttner
IMDB ID : 0318034
Official site : http://www.russianark.spb.ru/eng/index.html
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poster for "Russian Ark" by Aleksandr Sokurov (2002)
Russian Ark (2002) - Aleksandr Sokurov
 

Starring

Sergei Dontsov Stranger (as Sergei Dreiden
Mariya Kuznetsova Catherine The Great
Leonid Mozgovoy The Spy
David Giorgobiani Orbeli
Aleksandr Chaban Boris Piotrovsky
Maksim Sergeyev Peter the Great rest of cast listed alphabetically Anna Aleksakhina .... Alexandra Fyodorovna, Wife of Nicholas II
Konstantin Anisimov First Cavalier
Aleksei Barabash Second Cavalier
Vladimir Baranov Nicholas II
Valentin Bukin Military Official
Kirill Dateshidze Master of Ceremonies
Mikhail Dorofeyev First Card Player
Yevgeni Filatov Second Card Player
Svetlana Gajtan Museum Custodian
Valery Gergiev Conductor
Vadim Gushchin Grandee of Catherine The Great
Oleg Khmelnitsky Himself
Yuri Khomutyansky Insane Italian
Aleksandr Kulikov Fourth Cavalier
Tamara Kurenkova Herself
Vladimir Lisetsky Court Minister
Vadim Lobanov Chamberlain
Oleg Losev Court Official
Aleksandr Malnykin Servant of Peter The Great
Kirill Miller Court Official
Sergei Muchenikov Museum Official
Sergei Nadporozhny Court Official
Natalya Nikulenko Catherine the First
Yuri Orlov Grandee of Catherine The Great
Alla Osipenko Herself
Mikhail Piotrovsky Himself (Hermitage Director
Aleksandr Razbash Museum Official
Yelena Rufanova First Lady
Vladimir Sevastyanikhin Under-Tutor of the Heir
Ilya Shakunov Third Cavalier
Anatoli Shvedersky Marshall
Svetlana Smirnova Widow
Boris Smolkin Chancellor Nesselrode
Yelena Spiridonova Second Lady
Artyom Strelnikov Talented Boy
Svetlana Svirko Alexandra Fedorovna, Wife of Nicholas I
Valentina Yegorenkova Maid of Honor of Catherine The Great
Lev Yeliseyev Himself
Yuli Zhurin Nicholas
 

Plot

Told in one fluid shot, a tale which floats like a dreamlike journey through the majestic spaces of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, engaging real and imagined characters from Russian and European history. The nameless protagonist, a 19th-century French diplomat, guides the audience through a lost, sumptuous dream that was the Enlightenment period. The film, staged among some of the Western Art tradition's greatest masterpieces, climaxes in a pageant of color, motion, and music. For Sokurov, the Hermitage--home to generations of Romonovs and repository of so much Russian history--is the ark of the Russian soul, guarding it affectionately until the world sees better days.
 

Comments

3 stars (out of 4) This film is an amazing technical achievement. It is a single 96 minute long take, with no edits (actually, I have read that the final shot outside was really taken elsewhere and had to be digitally altered and attached). Of course using film would be impossible for such a long continuous take, because the film reel would be enormous, so it was shot on high definition video. But even so, the amazing thing is to imagine the athletic achievement of the cameraman (Tilman Büttner) moving the camera over so long a period of time without a break, and without any obvious mistakes. Another impressive thing about this film is the location. It is shot at the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg. They only had the museum for filming for one day, and they really only had one chance to get it right. Apparently they rehearsed for eight months, although I don't know how you could reproduce the floor plan (and "stair plan") of the museum. The museum itself is rich with art, which unfortunately I am not qualified to comment on. And finely, the cast is amazing in its immense scope. I have read that there were about two *thousand* people, and what amazed me even more is that there are a few children included. Can you imagine some child deciding to throw a tantrum and destroying everything? Granted, on a couple of times I saw a child look at the camera, acknowledging its presence in a way that I never saw any of the adults do, but it was pretty minor. The story is pretty thin. The cameraman has a disembodied voice, giving the audience a reference point. In the first minute or two he meets a 19th century French "stranger" (Sergei Dreiden), who remarks with astonishment that he is speaking Russian. The two of them explore the museum, which is filled with costumed people (including Catherine the Great) from a variety of time periods, with the stranger as the main guide. If you don't know Russian history, as is the case for me, this is mostly an exercise in style. My guess is that even if you do, it's still more style than substance. For me, that style made this film well worth seeing. I found myself saying "wow" on a few occasions, although admittedly those were skewed towards the start of the film. So if you're interested in Russian history or in innovative camera techniques, this is a film to seek out. Seen on 11/7/2002 at the 2002 Hawaii International Film Festival.
 
poster for "Russian Ark"
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Russian Ark (2002) - Aleksandr Sokurov
poster for "Russian Ark"
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Russian Ark (2002) - Aleksandr Sokurov
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