Film review

Russian Ark

OPENS APRIL 4, CERT U, 96 MINS

Director Alexander Sokurov's film is a feat of visual orchestration set in St Petersburg's Hermitage Museum. Our guide is a film-maker who floats unseen around the former royal palace. As he drifts from room to room, he's tossed backwards and forwards across history—now in the era of Peter The Great, now in 1919, now in the present day, now in the reign of Catherine The Great. Along the way, he picks up a fellow traveller, a prickly 19th-century French diplomat.

The events to which they bear invisible witness are generally inconsequential rather than pivotal, though one scene of aristocratic revellers pouring slowly down the staircases following the last, sumptuous ball of the Tsarist era is loaded with significance. The diplomat and film-maker's bickering amounts to a querulous meditation on Russia's pre-and post-Communist history.

Get this, however: Russian Ark was achieved in one unbroken steadicam shot. An unprecedented technical and artistic achievement.

Rating: 5 / 10


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