Autumn 2003 Edge series
Sunday, September 28, 2003 at 7:00pm
Empire Theatres, New Minas, NS
A presentation of the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival, where it wowed audiences and critics alike, Russian Ark is one of the most technically accomplished films in cinematic history. Working with a prototype HD camera, acclaimed Russian director Alexander Sokurov (Taurus, Mother And Son) and Run Lola Run cinematographer Tilman Buttner corralled 867 actors, hundreds of extras, three live orchestras and an army of technicians and traveled through 1,300 meters of St. Petersburg’s legendary Hermitage Museum to create a 90 minute historical drama that spans over three centuries – in a single take. More than just a technical gimmick, Russian Ark is a tremendously engrossing, remarkably light and accessible film that in a single breath goes to the very heart of the Russian experience. A filmmaker finds himself transported back to the Hermitage of the early 1700s without any recollection of how he got there. Unseen to everyone around him except for a sarcastic French Marquis (Sergey Dreiden), the filmmaker and the Marquis explore the chambers of the palace, and in the process observe over 300 years of Russian history, including the exploits of Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, and the last Czar and his doomed family. The two men argue about Russia’s role during these centuries, and about its perilous identity as a nation torn between East and West, partially in Europe yet not easily connected to European history or tradition. Büttner’s fluid Steadicam cinematography is a dazzling tour de force of inspired compositions, while the production design and Sokurov’s direction of the many hundreds of actors is simply awe inspiring. Russian Ark is a joyous achievement of cinematic adventurousness.
“Apart from anything else, this is one of the best-sustained ideas I have ever seen on the screen.” – Roger Ebert, The Chicago Sun-Times
“A joyous achievement…in a single breath goes to the very heart of the Russian experience.” – Kirk Honeycutt, Hollywood Reporter
“A magnificent feast for the eyes and brain.” – V.A. Musetto, New York Post
“From the craft point of view, this film by Russian director Alexander Sokurov is all but unprecedented, but that hasn’t gotten in the way of its beauty and its soul.” – Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times