Feb 19, 2008

Russian Ark

Alexander Sokurov’s Russian Ark brings nationalism back to Russian cinema. The film was done in one Steadicam shot. This cinematic tool works in complete opposition to the Bolshevik obsession with Soviet montage and editing. The Bolsheviks filmmakers strove for mind control and international revolution. Russian Ark destroys all those Bolshevik conventions while at the same time emphasizing Russian history. Sokurov’s earlier films were quite often banned by the Soviet authorities. Now he is one of the most innovative directors to come out of Russia (and the world).

Russian Ark was filmed in the Winter Palace. This building was considered the official milestone of Bolshevik attacks during the “October Revolution.” Alexander Sokurov shatters that “revolutionary milestone” with a tour through Russian history and culture. Leon Trotsky is probably crying about this in hell and calling for a second “revolution.”

A narrator and companion guide Russian Ark through different periods of Russian history. The guide reminded me of Italian journalist Mr. Orlando from Fellini’s And the Ship Sails On. Both comedic characters guide each respective film through forgotten parts of history. I prefer Russian history to be told by a Russian as opposed to one of Steven Spielberg's associates. Russian Ark is no doubt a great introduction to Russian culture.

Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope pretends to be filmed in one single shot. Rope was actually filmed in 10 different shots(color film reels had a maximum length of 10 minutes during this period). Russian Ark is a nice follow-up to Hitchcock’s revolutionary experiment. Sokurov succeeds in his groundbreaking cinematic experiment. It makes me wonder if Russian Ark’s artistic success will start a new movement of single shot feature length films.

Russian Ark was an aesthetically pleasing experience for me. The film presents a beautiful world of historical wealth. Russian Ark made me fantasize about being transported through Russian history and all the treasures it has to offer. Alexander Sokurov is a director to look out for in the future.

-Ty E


Izak said...

Yes. I saw this one for a class, and it was absolutely brilliant. My favorite line in the whole film is something to the effect of: "Everyone knows about the future of Russia, they can all predict the future of it so easily. But they have no idea about its past."

Of all the films about Russia, I've never seen such a brilliant and truthful approach to the suppression of its past that always seems to come up, whether from the Soviet regime or the age of perestroika. It's always something or another, and hopefully for them it will be put to a stop soon.

JD said...

I remember watching this in Los Angeles when it opened.
Excellent film. Mesmerizing.
Great review.