Alexander Sokurov’s spellbinding 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.
Following the mental journey and detached musings of a 19th century aristocrat (and an unseen narrator) we swirl past various famous personages (Peter the Great, Tsar Nicholas) and bit players, and events both important and trivial. Climaxing in a lavish recreation of the last grand ball held in the actual Hermitage in 1913, this raises and ponders many issues along the way - cultural, historical, philosophical - an eccentric analysis finally welded together by its breathtaking cinematic spectacle.
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.