Russian Ark

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Facts and Figures

Run time: 99 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 19th April 2003

Box Office USA: $37.4k

Distributed by: Wellspring Media

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Fresh: 88 Rotten: 11

IMDB: 7.3 / 10

Cast & Crew

Producer: , , Karsten Stöter

Starring: Sergei Dreiden as The Marquis, Mariya Kuznetsova as Catherine The Great, Leonid Mozgovoy as Spy, Maksim Sergeyev as Peter the Great

Russian Ark Movie Review


I don't know where to begin with a critique of Russian Ark. The most natural point is to mention that it's shot in one continuous take that lasts 90 minutes and includes hundreds -- maybe 1,000 or more -- actors. While Russian director Aleksandr Sokurov would have you believe this was a pioneering idea, Mike Figgis did this in Time Code two years earlier -- and he used four cameras, all running continuous photography and displayed in a split screen.

The real ambition in Russian Ark comes not from its technical challenges, but from its cast and setting. The film takes place entirely within the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg and comprises dozens of vignettes as the camera and its nameless narrator (Sergei Dontsov) flit from room to room on a journey through Russian history. The finale, which includes 300 pairs of dancers in a grand ballroom in the Hermitage, not to mention a full orchestra and countless spectators, is impressive to the point of being jaw-dropping. But the bulk of the film feels too much like filling time. Our hero (who bears a striking resemblance to Phyllis Diller) spends 20 minutes just figuring out what country he's in, and encounters with Catherine the Great, Anastasia, and other notable Russian luminaries are brief and cursory. (And where is Rasputin!?)

Sokurov's work here is impressive and says something interesting about how nice it might be to go back in history to simpler times. Witnessing the splendor of the aristocratic balls, the impressive artwork, and the cultured music, you almost forget that, following the czar-era setting of Russian Ark, Mother Russia experienced a violent and bloody revolution, a siege from the Germans, and an eventual plunge into economic collapse after the fall of communism.

Be careful what you wish for.


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'A lavish tour through St Petersburg's Hermitage and through Russian history.'Geoff Andrew - TIME OUT'Breathtaking...a fluid and sensuous journey...this majestic experience'Alexander Walker - EVENING STANDARD'A technical masterpiece that time-travels through Russia's turbulent history from the 1700's to the present day in one awesome take'James Christopher - THE TIMES'Shot in one long magisterial digital take...'RUSSIAN ARK is a staggering attempt to make a moving-image history painting'The technical achievement alone makes this a milestone, but there is so much density, one breathless viewing is not enough to take it all in.'Nick James - SIGHT AND SOUND'RUSSIAN ARK is a visual astonishment.'Kenneth Turan - LOS ANGELES TIMES'Alexander Sokurov's astonishing new film...''...this is also a film about nostalgia and loss.''...the film...is unique.'Geoffrey Macnab - SIGHT AND SOUND'Sokurov's extraordinary 96-minute single-shot film RUSSIAN ARK - Orson Welles, eat your heart out!'Tom Charity - TIME OUT '...certain to become one of cinema's defining moments...''...a work of startling originality.'Ian Christie - LFF PROGRAMME'An extraordinarily virtuoso achievement from the man widely regarded as Russia's greatest living director.''The film takes us on a trip through space...and time.'TIME OUT - LFF Round-up Pull-out'One of the most astonishing films ever made'Robert Ebert'Unprecedented virtuosity'TIMES'RUSSIAN ARK builds in hypnotic intensity toward a suitably mind-boggling finale of the Hermitage's last royal ball...'VILLAGE VOICE'RUSSIAN ARK is a magnificent conjuring act, an eerie historical mirage evoked in a single sweeping wave of the hand by Alexander Sokurov.'NEW YORK TIMES'By the time of the closing shot - twists of fog rising like spectres from a leaden sea - even the most stubborn viewer will be lying back in a state of happy hypnosis. This film prowls with feline inquiry through the museum, gazing not just at the pictures on the walls but at the figures who throng and linger in the rooms.''The film sails on... like the most frictionless of dreams.'Anthony Lane - THE NEW YORKER'An extraordinary moving tableau''this sublime masterpiece...' / 'this truly is poetry in motion''...Anyone with an eye for beauty, a yearning for the past or a passion for pure cinema is going to be spellbound'David Parkinson - EMPIRE'Breathtaking...A fascinating history lesson, full of spectacle, colour, music and movement'Ian Freer - NIGHT & DAY - MAIL ON SUNDAY'Extraordinary time travelling, filmed in a single, uncut shot''A gorgeous feast of visual orchestration''A mesmerising and unprecedented technical and artistic achievement.'David Stubbs - UNCUT‘A film like no other…if you still want proof that cinema’s a miracle’Bryan Appleyard – SUNDAY TIMES‘Breathtaking…a cinematic love letter to the Hermitage museum’Peter Bradshaw – THE GUARDIAN‘This Paean to the Hermitage museum…is a stunning achievement’‘A truly wonderful film, aerating and inspirational, a 99 minute exhalation of sadness and mysterious joy’Sukhdev Sandhu – THE DAILY TELEGRAPH‘It saves the best to last: the vivid bustle of a costumed ball with full orchestra, and the massed procession down the staircase at its close have a melancholy grandeur that won’t be forgotten. We seem to be watching not just a crowd leaving a ballroom, but souls melting into history.’Anthony Quinn – THE INDEPENDENT‘Unique…one of those very rare films that has the true sense of a waking dream about it…Miraculous…I cannot remember ever being so enchanted by a movie’Roger Clarke – THE INDEPENDENT‘Truly a great film. There may be others like it: but none will ever again make us feel we have burst through a new frontier of cinema’Alexander Walker – THE EVENING STANDARD‘RUSSIAN ARK demands to be seen, and demands to be discussed in terms of the way it sets out to write a new chapter in the history of film time and space’Jonathan Romney – THE INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY‘This breathtaking piece of cinema, infinitely more impressive that any Hollywood hi-tech action movie, has got into the Guinness Book of Records. It also has a place in the history of the technical and philosophical development of the cinema’Philip French – THE OBSERVER

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Russian Ark Rating

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