Ark (Russia/Germany; 96min.)
directed by: Aleksandr Sokurov
starring: Sergei Dontsov; Mariya Kuznetsova; Leonid Mozgovoy
"I watched Russian Ark a few months ago when Ned and I were deciding
if we were brave enough to play a Sukarov film for an entire week. He has
been compared to Tarkovsky but doesnít have the cult following yet so we
werenít sure if it was time. So, home sick one day in December I watched
the 96 minute film. All I knew is that it was shot in DV Ė finding out later
it was High Definition DV making it a film quality image, not a low budget
indie image Ė and that it was shot in one, continuous take, and that it
took place in the Hermitage.
" From the first frame I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat, leaning forward towards the screen, trying to absorb every detail of the environment, every movement, object and person within the fram. It starts in black, with the narrator asking a question in this darkness. Sukarov successfully pulls the audience into this cinematic mystery with this opening. I was determined to find out the answer to his question, to help him unravel the truth to his situation. I hesitate to tell you too much about how the film progresses because part of the joy watching the film is watching it unravel before you.
"But I can tell you that the narrator, whom you never see, joins a French diplomat who has also become unhinged from time and they wander through the Hermitage, each room bringing them to another time. They trespass through peopleís lives over the last 300 years of Russian history without anyone knowing they are there. Since they arenít noticed, they are able to witness private moments in the lives of historical figures.
"The film is a feat logistically, one take with 2000 actors isnít easy! A feat technically, finally to be able to have a true one-take film that is feature length using the latest in DV technology as well as the stedicam. And a feat cinematically, the fact that this is a successful film where the camera is a character whom we never see is exciting enough, but to add to it the element of moving through time and witnessing people in their private moments, well thatís what film is.
"Finally, this isnít the meditative Sukarov that people know from Mother and Son, the other film of his that is well-known in the States. This film is full of life, as history is, and makes you hunger for more information. Like Wessley Morris mentioned in his review today in the Boston Globe, I wished after watching the film that I knew more about Russian history so that I could have taken more from the film. I wanted to go learn everything I could about it and then see the film again.
"In the end RUSSIAN ARK is everything a film should be, a sort of uber-film. Film is a combination of humanity, inspiration, dream, technology, experimentation, mystery, magic, love, and voyeurism. This is like no other film, but is exactly what a film should be.
"Apology: I am concerned that no film can live up to the glowing recommendation that I just gave, so forgive me if now you are under-whelmed by what you see."
"I neglected to send this message earlier this week after seeing the
visually spectacular RUSSIAN ARK. Basically a tour through the Hermitage
Museum as well as Russian history, RUSSIAN ARK, directed by Aleksandr Sokurov
is wonder of filmmaking.
"As you may have read, RUSSIAN ARK is shot in one continuous take, by renowned steadycam operator Tilman Buttner who also shot RUN, LOLA, RUN. This feat may not sound so impressive to we jaded film viewers, but upon viewing RUSSIAN ARK in its entirety, I am hard-pressed to imagine it in practice. In addition, RUSSIAN ARK features a literal cast of thousands as the unseen narrator floats from room to room of the museum encoutnering a plethora of time periods of Russian history.
"Sure I may have liked a little more plot, and sure, the first 45 minutes or so dragged a bit, but I must say the final third of the film just completely blew me away. As Buttner's camera bobbed and swept through a crowded ballroom during a symphonic dance, it was difficult to believe that I wasn't actually the camera itself. It was truly an impressive bit of filmmaking.
"Ultimately, I'm not sure I would sit through the film again, but I'm very glad I did so at least once." 3 cats.