Saturday, November 24, 2007

Russian Ark

Russkiy kovcheg; Drama, Russia/ Germany, 2002; D: Aleksandr Sokurov, S: Sergei Dontsov, Mariya Kuznetsova, Leonid Mozgovoy, Mikhail Piotrovsky, David Giorgobiani, Aleksandr Chaban

A narrator wakes up and spots ladies and gentlemen dressed in 19th Century costumes leaving a carriage and entering the Winter Palace of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. He follows them but has the impression that nobody can notice him except for one ambassador. Together they travel through large rooms of Hermitage and bump into modern day tourists, which confuses him. On their way, they talk about paintings and Russian history and meet some soldiers. Everything ends with a dance.

Aleksandr Sokurov managed to film with his "Russian Ark" an extremely ambitious and complicated undertaking, one of the first of his era - the whole 90-minute long film shot in only one take! He even had to interrupt shooting three times and start filming everything from the beginning since every actor had to appear and say his/ her line without a mistake. Sokurov's organization is first-rate but the film itself is sadly only formally intriguing. Once the viewer gets used to the long trick, it gets obvious that there isn't much to see in the empty story. The camera represents the point-of-view of the hero who gets shown around the museum from some ambassador, thus they both meet dancers, musicians and soldiers who are just superficially presented there without any reason except as a pretext to artificially keep the movie going. Even though it lasts only 90 minutes, the film is boring and monotone, especially when they talk about paintings. The author should have found an interesting story, like Hitchcock's similar experimental film "Rope", and not just a tiresome mix of various episodes.


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