Friday, 22 April 2011


Alexander Sokurov's THE RUSSIAN ARK is a remarkable film for many reasons, not the least of which because it is almost impossible to catagorize. Is it a documentary? Is it history? Is it science-fiction? It is certainly an almost unique cinematic experience. It has at it's core a situation rather than a story. Two men, one never seen, the other a 19th Century French aristocrat/diplomat find themselves, mysteriously, entering The Hermitage Museum in St.Petersburg. To their surprise they can both speak Russian. They are not sure what century they are in - historical figures such as Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, Czars Alexander and Nicholas, real people, tourists all seem to be there. Together the two men wander through over thirty rooms of the former Winter Palace discussing art, arguing, being harassed by staff. To say more would be unfair for this film is really to be experienced rather than talked about. Technically the film is quite mind-boggling. It is done in a single 99 minute take - perhaps not so difficult in these days of digital technology but when/if you see the film you will realise that the logistical difficulties are stunning - everything we see is achieved in real time without second takes (and we are talking about a cast of over 2000!). We, the viewer - maybe we are the unseen man because we see through his eyes - are taken on a journey through this magnificent historical building (for this is not a set), a journey that in its own way is just as magical as Lewis Carroll's Adventures of Alice in Wonderland (and full of equally eccentic encounters) - of which the film strongly reminds me. I read that, perhaps, it is a film that should only be watched once but I know that it will haunt me for a long time and equally I know that I will take that journey again many times. I won't name the lead actor because although it is one of the most remarkable performances I have ever seen it would spoil the illusion - for me he was a real person and I look forward to meeting him again. A masterpiece. Rating *****

1 comment:

Cerpts said...

What the hell ya tryin' to do?!?!?! Turn me on to Russian movies too?!?!?!

Really that sounds like a wonderful wonderful picture!