Russian Ark Screen 10 articles

Russian Ark

2002

Russian Ark Poster
  • Of course, there are some stupendous moments of jaw-dropping beauty in the film, but there are also several passages when it feels like Sokurov is just letting the camera roll, focusing on nothing really in particular, either because the next set piece isn’t quite ready or he didn’t have a full set of ideas to play with visually in the current scene. Or there just aren’t a whole lot of ideas put in play.

  • ...It is quite a spellbinding, visually brilliant film... The film creates a seeming parable for a nation irretrievably moving ever adrift from the rest of Europe, and oblivious (or apathetic) to its cultural and artistic legacy. What is visibly absent though, are the aspects of spirituality and metaphysical concern that had attracted me to his earlier works.

  • Although the viewer may be only intermittently aware of the ongoing tour de force, Russian Ark builds in hypnotic intensity toward a suitably mind-boggling finale of the Hermitage's last royal ball in 1913. For eight minutes or so, the camera circles around and threads between hundreds of courtiers dancing the mazurka in the huge Nicholas Hall... Sokurov can be forgiven for the inscribed applause as the last chord sounds in this crescendo and a sense of pleasurably exhausted melancholy descends.

  • This Alexander Sokurov feature (2002) is one of the most staggering technical achievements in the history of cinema... Sokurov used close to 2,000 actors and extras and three live orchestras in making what may be the world's only unedited single-take feature as well as the longest Steadicam sequence ever shot.

  • For Sokurov, the technique is no gimmick, no “vain formal feat” or “supplementary aesthetic trump card” (2) – it is the very essence of the film. It could be argued that the key relationship of Russian Ark is not that between the narrator and the Marquis but that between the camera and the Hermitage. The film’s mise en scène is the living culture of Russian and European history.

  • As always, mystification remains [Sokurov's] most consistent touchstone, and like much of his work, Russian Ark employs sensory confusion as a means of narrowing focus, recontexualizing the way we imagine both filmic space and the historic occurrences it conveys.

  • Its director, Alexander Sokurov, pushes his conceit to the theatrical hilt... This is as immersive—and as Shining-level spooky—as history gets.

  • Part essay film, part historical pageant, the film alternates past glories with periods of hardship—a cyclical sense of culture that's central to Russian nationalism, and Sokurov's work. A radical piece of conservative art.

  • In the decade since the film's premiere, digital has become the primary means of cinematic production, but despite some individual instances of formal advancement, it's arguable that no film has yet married the historical properties of cultural and cinematic evolution as seamlessly as Russian Ark.

  • The auteur’s compatriot Tarkovsky once said that Russians are fatally attached to their roots, and Sokurov’s deep personal investment in the St Petersburg he lives in enlivens the film’s every frame.

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