Russian Ark

April 6, 2016

Review, Theatrical 1 Comment

“…an astounding technical feat…”
Russian Ark

Russian Ark

By Angie Fox
Year: 2002
Rating: G
Director: Alexander Sokurov

Sergie Donstov, Mariya Kuznetsova, Leonid Mozgovoy

Distributor: Potential
Released: April 7, 2015 (Re-release)
Running Time: 99 minutes
Worth: $18.50

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“…an astounding technical feat…”

Filmed in one continuous, entirely uncut 99-minute tracking shot, director Alexander Sokurov’s 2003 critical darling, Russian Ark (enjoying a big screen re-release prior to the director’s new film, Francofonia), is an astounding technical feat that must be seen to be believed. Though the first single-take full-length feature ever created, the technical artistry in no way compromises the beauty of the setting or the subtlety of the narrative.

In Russian Ark, an unseen contemporary filmmaker, voiced by Sokurov, travels through St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum together with 19th century French diplomat, The Marquis de Custine (Sergey Dreiden). Together they unveil the majestic rooms in the Hermitage along with its bountiful treasures – artworks by Rubens, Van Dyck, and Rembrandt to name a few. Along the way, they encounter scenes and characters from Russian history, from Peter The Great to the last Tsar, Nicholas II.

Russian Ark utilises more than 867 actors and hundreds of extras, not to mention the talents of cinematographer, Tilman Buttner (Run Lola Run), who used a specially designed Steadicam to travel through the 33 rooms in the Hermitage on the single shooting day. The shoot followed months of rehearsal and the closure and redecoration of the museum itself. The sheer scale of this production, which is essentially a fusion of film and theatre, is best captured in the final scene, a recreation of a ball held in The Great Nicholas Hall. Exquisite costumes and choreography literally transport the viewer to another time and place.


  1. David Paine

    Man oh man I got so tired of watching people’s backs. For the first 15 minutes that is about all you see, as the camera followed actors walking around, going up abs down stairs, entering a room or a large hall, then still moving on somewhere else. Technically brilliant but infuriating to someone who would like to people actually act out a scene.
    After endless streams of this nonsense, a few themes finally emerge relative to Russian art and history, but the approach is 100 percent oblique, and you find yourself not really caring what happens, and very tired of the incomplete points being made and the constant shifting of perspective. High art perhaps, but overly cluttered with faces half seen, dropped story lines, vague references. and other impressionistic touches.
    Don’t watch this unless you have zero issues on your mind and can assert extreme patience with the thinnest of cinematic storylines.

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