Shot in one long, continuous take, a 19th century French marquis takes a surreal trip through Russian and European history via a labyrinth of neverending ballrooms and corridors. Filmed entirely in the The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.
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How Sokurov managed to film this in one shot (!!) is probably a worthy documentary subject in itself, but the hard work paid off and Russian Ark is a stunning journey through the last three centuries of Russian history. A beautiful, timeless aesthetic journey whose magic effortlessly draws in the viewer, spitting them out into reality again 90 minutes later.
A daydream about 3 centuries of Russian history. Every shown aspect and the ones that don't need to be shown are wonderfully displayed in a charming long take held by the Hermitage. We go through Russian art and history as through an original and beautiful experience coordinated by the voice of Sokurov ( "I open my eyes and see nothing").
A true essay answering the question Bazin asked many years ago. Sokurov defines cinema as time and space, manipulated by those memories capable of creating that strange third dimension we call distance. The dream of a ghost as seen through a liquid camera
I can't help seeing this as an information film about the Hermitage and Russia rather than a real creative masterpiece, or at best a showcase for what camera nowadays, and rigorous planning, can achieve. I find that its always a slave to its conceit of the single take, and is unable, or unwilling, to break free.
While incredibly impressive, as most would agree, "Russian Ark" is not a one trick pony. In fact, it manages to present a wonderfully engaging story that would be just as engaging had it been done in more than a single shot. Every shot is breathtaking - the costumes, the rooms, the orchestras, it was all perfect.
I agree that this film really deserves credit for being done in one shot. I personally thought it could've been more interesting, though. (I mean, c'mon, Russian history is SO colorful and fascinating!)
I found it to be an absolutely banal tourist guide spectacle, which had absolutely nothing at all to say, explicitly at least as implicitly I found it nationalistic and reactionary in it's lavish glorification of the aristocracy. The dialog was utterly trite, the framing devise of the european (who was really annoying) and the russian uninteresting and I didn't think it looked as good as it could have. Just rubbish.
The idea was great, a roving camera taking in the splendor of the Hermitage past and present with apparently no break in the filming, but something seemed to be missing. Still, you have to admire the audacity of Sokurov.