Magazine article New Internationalist

Russian Ark

Magazine article New Internationalist

Russian Ark

Article excerpt

This is an awesome achievement. The entire film is a roving unbroken 90-minute take of the choreographed movement of thousands of actors around St Petersburg's Hermitage art museum - once the Winter Palace, residence of the tsars. It's the most complex shot in the history of cinema, made possible by high-definition video cameras recording onto a prototype portable hard disk.

But so what? What does the staggering technique contribute to the film? Although the cast is huge, there are only two significant characters - and the camera is one of them. The camera's view is the gaze of a disembodied soul, invisible and inaudible to everyone, and so unable to speak or interact with anyone - apart from the ever present `Marquis', a cynical 19th-century French diplomat, his (and our) chaperone through time. The soul throughout is an alienated voyeur, his camera eye reducing the action to spectacle.

Sokurov's film ostensibly celebrates high culture and Russia's cultural tradition. …

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