Friday, June 9, 2017

Russian Ark Movie Review

Russian Ark (2002)
Russkij Kovcheg 
Buy Russian Ark on Amazon
Written by: Boris Khaimsky, Svetlana Proskurina, Aleksandr Sokurov (dialogue), Anatoly Nikiforov, Aleksandr Sokurov (written by)
Directed by:
Aleksandr Sokurov
Starring: Sergei Dreiden, Mariya Kuznetsova, Leonid Mozgovoy
Rated:Not Rated/PG

My rating is simple, Watch It, It Depends, Skip it. Read my previous movie reviews!

In this Russian language film, an unnamed narrator and a 19th century French aristocrat travel through the Winter Palace (now known as the Hermitage Museum) in Saint Petersburg, seeing historical figures from various periods of Russian history in each room.

The concept is amazing, and this is technically staggering. This is a single uncut ninety minute shot.
While I wish I knew Russian history better, I wouldn't want this to be american-ized. Not knowing the subject matter well feeds into the dream state of the movie, capitalizing on my disoriented nature.
This is a movie that pushes the boundary of what film is and what it can do. While it's definitely a film buff movie, it's a unique experience.Watch it.

Due to the location, Sokurov only had one day of filming. A cast of crew of more than 4,500, including 2,000 actors had to get this right. The first take was stopped in less than five minutes. The fourth take is the only full take shot and the version seen in the movie.

Victoria (2015) (read my review) pulled off a similar unbroken ninety minute shot, but it comes off as a gimmick in that. It was a standard action story with a single shot claim to fame.
The single shot decision of Russian Ark works for the style as a ghost floats around a museum. The unbroken shot is integral to the story. It creates a mesmerizing journey. We see the movie from one point of view as the narrator watches the events unfold and then leaves.

The concept is intriguing, but the camera work is just crazy. It's a daunting endeavor, just amazing they even pulled it off. This is more meditation than movie, a rumination on Russia, history, and the culture.

While it would pay to know more about Russian history and the dead roaming the halls, the final few minutes directly drive home the scale and scope as hundreds of people dance in a grand ball room. I'm sure many of the cast and crew were sweating bullets with so many actors in a huge room, praying someone didn't screw up the shot in the last few minutes.

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