Russian Ark
Russian Ark

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Certificate: U | Released: 2002 | Duration: 1 hr 36 mins | Director: Alexander Sokurov | Studio: Fusion Media | Genres: Drama - World Cinema

A visually hypnotising cinematic feat, RUSSIAN ARK is Alexander Sokurov's spellbinding ode to St. Petersburg's State Hermitage Museum. Shot in one fluid take using High Definition video cameras, the photography floats and careens through the lavish corridors of the museum, examining its architectural details while following a dreamlike plot. A cast of 867 actors supply the action of the film, whether dancing the mazurka in a lively ballroom, performing a military salute, or watching a theatre performance. The Marquis (Serg ... (Full plot summary below)

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Full Plot Details

A visually hypnotising cinematic feat, RUSSIAN ARK is Alexander Sokurov's spellbinding ode to St. Petersburg's State Hermitage Museum. Shot in one fluid take using High Definition video cameras, the photography floats and careens through the lavish corridors of the museum, examining its architectural details while following a dreamlike plot. A cast of 867 actors supply the action of the film, whether dancing the mazurka in a lively ballroom, performing a military salute, or watching a theatre performance. The Marquis (Sergey Dreiden), an aged but limber European dressed in solid black, is the film's charismatic guide, leading the narrator--who is the unidentified voice behind the camera--through each doorway and into each gallery in a sweeping tour of the Hermitage. While the Marquis interacts with some of the guests, debating about Italian art with a couple of Russian scholars, delighting over rich paintings by Rubens and Van Dyck with an angelic blind woman, taking a lively brunette for a spin on the dance floor, others do not see him. Even the narrator suspects that the Marquis is a ghost, long dead and wandering the Hermitage in a quest to better understand history. Time periods, indicated by style of dress, fluctuate between the 1700s and the present. Famous Russian figures, such as Peter the Great, Nicholas I, and Catherine the Great appear and then disappear, with no explanation of their roles. Between the Marquis and the narrator, confusion reigns. They are spectators and trespassers in this mysterious space, trying to find their way.

The world's first single take unedited full length feature film, this is a journey of three hundred years of Russian art and history. Two men witness key historical figures enacting scenes from the Tsarist Empire.

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Movie Reviews

Austin Chronicle - 7.8/10 by Marjorie Baumgarten A tour de force of modern cinema.
Portland Oregonian - 10.0/10 by Shawn Levy Audacious, gorgeous and unique.
The New York Times - 9.0/10 by Stephen Holden A magnificent conjuring act, an eerie historical mirage.
TV Guide - 8.0/10 by Ken Fox The final effect, particularly the climactic ballroom sequence, is astonishing -- a haunting impression of the vast synchronicity of unbroken time that must surely stand as one of the great achievements in the development of the movie medium.
Time - 10.0/10 by Richard Corliss A coda that will have the movie's audience gasping in exhilarated exhaustion, whispering astonished gratitude to Sokurov for having created vigorous art out of 21st century video technique and asking themselves, "What's the Russian word for Wow!?"
Baltimore Sun - 6.3/10 by Michael Sragow Sokurov, for all his accomplishment, is less a bold innovator than a raider of lost art.
San Francisco Chronicle - 10.0/10 by Kenneth Baker Marks a cinematic milestone.
Chicago Reader - 8.0/10 by J.R. Jones The problem with these feats is that they threaten to overwhelm the film's content, both as complex historical commentary and as aesthetic and theoretical gesture.

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