Movie Review: Russian Ark

Piehead’s sister-in-law suggests Russian Ark (in Foreign Language).  This is honestly one of the most amazing movies I’ve ever seen. I was about halfway through my viewing when I suddenly realized that the entire film was done in one take! That’s right – one camera, one shot, no cuts, no editing. I mean…

Not that it's not beautiful, but this poster may make 'Russian Ark' look a tad more exciting than it actually is...

wow! Now, let me just say that such a cinematic device has the potential to be used in a very gimmicky and uninteresting way (see Andy Warhol’s sleep-inducing Empire). Yes, yes, I realize that old Andy was making “art” when he filmed one continuous shot of the Empire State building for eight hours straight, but if you want to see a genuine piece of art, pick up Russian Ark.  It is the story of Russia told through a long, flowing, breathtakingly beautiful tour of the Winter Palace, part of the Russian State Hermitage Museum. Our hosts on the tour are an unnamed, unseen narrator (director Alexander Sokurav, I believe) and a character identified only as “the Marquis” (based on the real life 19th century writer Marquis de Custine).  The narrator and the Marquis glide from room to room, encountering various historical figures along the way, sometimes interacting with them and at other times appearing to be invisible to those around them.  I know embarrassingly little about the history of Russia so I was only able to immediately identify a few characters – Catherine the Great and Princess Anastasia to name a few – but it really doesn’t matter. This is by no means a plot-driven movie.  This is an exquisite journey, a visual poem of the history of Russia and the art that was created as a result of that history.  I’ve watched this movie at least six or seven times now and each viewing is as sublime as the previous ones.  I’ve even watched it without the subtitles on one or two occasions and just let the voices and beauty of the art wash over me.  If you’re one of those people that always skips the foreign section, why not give this one a try?

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Published in: on August 6, 2010 at 1:34 am  Leave a Comment  
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