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Published on Jul 14, 2016
Alexander Sokurov’s spellbinding masterpiece RUSSIAN ARK is a multi-award winning film consisting of one unbroken camera shot that moves through St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum. It’s a staggering work of art, an impressive technical feat that is also cinematic poetry of the first order. As Sokurov’s camera glides through 33 rooms of the Hermitage, moving in and out of cathedral-like galleries, opulent ballrooms and shadowy corridors and workrooms, three centuries of Russian history and European art are compressed into a single 96 minute shot. In the dreamlike journey, an unseen modern filmmaker (voiced by Sokurov) is joined by a somewhat scornful French diplomat, the Marquis de Custine (Sergey Dreiden). We see the great paintings of El Greco, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Rubens and others in the Hermitage treasure trove, discussed by the Marquis and other aficionados. At the same time, as if in a nightmare, we keep getting glimpses of Russian history: Peter the Great manhandling a general; Russia’s last Czar, Nicholas II, dining with his family before the revolution or receiving emissaries from Persia; and Catherine the Great attending an opera and desperately running around in search of a restroom - or later wandering out into a snowy courtyard. An extraordinary film, one that, like the museum itself, captures and shows three centuries of Russian culture and history in all its beauty, confusion, terror and majesty.