A contemporary Russian filmmaker unexpectedly stumbles into the past and finds himself in the Hermitage in St Petersburg, surrounded by early 17th century society. Accompanied by a French diplomat he then passes through various epochs and, before stormy events and twists of fate release him back to the present, he marvels with the foreigner at the bizarre and incredible deeds of those who once held the Russian empire in their grasp. In long, sweeping shots, almost without any editing, czarinas and czars file past the camera, including the last emperor, while the two men conduct a passionate discussion on what they witness in these grand palatial halls. The Frenchman’s commentary represents traditional Western European contempt and also admiration for this mysterious and somewhat exotic country; the filmmaker’s words express the division within Russians who reject and also acknowledge European culture. Sokurov declares: “I do not perceive my film as a return to history; Russia’s relationship with Europe is just as much a key issue now as it was at anytime in the past”. –Karoly Vary International Film Festival
One of the most important directors in both Russian and world cinema, Alexander Sokurov is considered by many to be the spiritual heir of the great Andrei Tarkovsky. Sokurov — who has enjoyed a long creative relationship with Tarkovsky — has discounted such comparisons, but certain similarities between their works remain indelible: a predilection towards very long takes, natural performances by their actors, and an almost otherworldly use of natural sounds and music. And, perhaps most important, both directors are concerned with the essential questions of human existence and the state of the human spirit.
Sokurov was the son of a World War II veteran. His family moved around a good deal while Sokurov was growing up, and after finishing high school, he went to Gorki, Russia’s third largest city. There, he attended Gorki University and began to work as an assistant television director when he was 19. He continued to direct television programs for the Gorki station until 1975, and… read more
Part of me succumbed to a contemplative mood the film induces, a brooding over transience, cultural power, the performance of Russia BUT part of me rebelled, feeling the whole thing was unselfconsciously middebrow, pandering to, while supposedly ironizing, a taste for sumptuousness w/ a memento mori as garnish: a Baroque nude with a skull and 'all that flesh'
A movie shot in one take. I was amazed while watching the film that I would sometimes forget that I was watching one take happen, I was so engrossed by the costumes, the thousands of actors, the set pieces and the story. 300 hundred years of Russian history is somehow squeezed into this film, I am familiar with historic figures but not the stories behind them, nonetheless I was fascinated by what was happening. Beautiful film.
Alexandre Sokourov s’est certainement fait un nom dans le cinéma mondial avec L’arche russe. Film tourné en un seul plan-séquence, de la même manière que La corde d’Hitchcock, permettant au spectateur… read review
What an exquisite movie. It won me over gradually. After the first twenty minutes I was thinking: «This may be a technical stunt, but hardly more than that». As the film progressed, I realized how… read review
Absolutely amazing. Absolutely awe-inspiring. Absolutely brilliant.
Where to begin? Perhaps I’ll get this out of the way: the 96 minute film was shot in one continuous take. One continuous… read review