It has been almost six months since I put one of these up, not because I haven’t been streaming films, but because I am lazy. However, when I saw that Alexander Sokurov‘s mindbending Russian Ark hit Netflix this week, I knew that I had to re-watch it and share this fantastic film.
I was fortunate enough to see this film in the theatre (at the Music Box in Chicago, no less) and was completely blown away. On the surface, Russian Ark may seem boring. A long trip through 300 years of Russian history, told by moving room to room through the famed Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. While that may not blow everyone’s hair back as much as it did mine (I got my degree in history and truly adore this type of film), nor might it that the film used nearly 900 different actors and three full orchestras. However, this film was shot in one continuous Steadi-cam shot, meaning there are ZERO cuts in the film. It is absolutely breathtaking to watch, thinking the entire time the sheer amount of effort it took to coordinate, the actors, the musicians, the extras and the fortitude of director of photography, Tilman Büttner (who also shot Tom Tykwer‘s fantastische Run Lola Run) to be able to capture everything happening around him enough to tell the story without screwing it all up.
As we traipse through the museum seeing the countless treasures adorning its walls and in its galleries, we also see Russia’s historical treasures in folks such as Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, and Nicholas Romanov and his family before their tragic deaths at the hands of the rebellious Blosheviks in 1917. This film is as much a treasure as those we see in The Hermitage. Sokurov impressively creates a spectacle like nothing I have seen before or since. In film, not the easiest thing to do. That he was able to capture it on the last possible run through that he could is all the more amazing. With time running out on their permit in The Hermitage and three abortive attempts prior, that they were able to complete the film at all is insanely amazing. Here is a link to the 5 parts that comprise the documentary of how this film was made:
It is almost as mesmerizing as the film itself.
I would be remiss if I didn’t say that the pace of this film is pretty slow. If slow-paced foreign films that meditatively explore a country’s history aren’t your speed, you may want to skip. However, if you are into seeing something that will blow your fucking mind despite its pace and great number of subtitles, then give this one a whirl.
Here’s the trailer: