Russian Ark (2002)

Russian Ark
Directed by Aleksandr Sokurov
Written by Svetlana Proskurina, Aleksandr Sokurov, Anatoli Nikiforov, Boris Khaimsky
(number 364)

I did mean to see this in the film festival when it came out, back in 2002 but I didn’t manage it for whatever reason. It’s one that people talk about when they talk about long shots, which is a cinema trope I enjoy a lot.

This is such an arthouse film. It just, it couldn’t be more arthouse. Now first up, I know very little about history and I know even less about Russian history, so I’m sure there’s a lot of aspects of the things shown in this movie that I just didn’t get. But for the most part this doesn’t matter, because the movie is lush and the Marquis/Man in black explains some things in case they’re important.

The breathtaking thing about this movie is the spectacle. First the all in one take and secondly the lush location, third the costuming.

The spectacle is incredible. So many people in these beautiful costumes, perfectly made up and coiffed and moving through this astoundingly beautiful winter palace, which looks like a cross between Versailles and the Vatican. We get to see and appreciate some priceless pieces of art; paintings and sculptures and historical figures. The lighting is perfect, there’s no moment where the style is compromised. No small task given how it was filmed….

According to wikipedia: “According to In One Breath, the documentary on the making of the film, four attempts were made. The first failed at the five-minute mark. After two more failed attempts, they were left with only enough battery power for one final take. The four hours of daylight available were also nearly gone. Fortunately, the final take was a success and the film was completed at 90 minutes.” It’s mind boggling to imagine the set up and the control and the timing of it all.

Does it make me love the people? It sort of made me love the Marquis, he reminded me of a cross between John Malkovich and the dandelion haired gentleman from Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. But it’s not a movie about the human condition or getting to know characters particularly. It’s about the lush creation of a piece of cinematic art.

Bechdel test: No, to be honest there’s very few named characters at all. It’s funny because right at the start there are two women who talk to each other about the ball and where to go, but as with many of the people encountered no names are given.

Best line:

The Stranger: Let’s proceed with caution. These madmen could eat us.
The Time Traveller: They liked your hair.
The Stranger: Of course, I’m a writer. Writer’s always have good hair.

State of Mind: It got sort of boring towards the end. I found the style of filming to make me feel somewhat dreamy, which made me sleepy. I might watch it again, but I do need to be in the right frame of mind for it I think.

Watched movie count


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