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Russian Ark (2002)
"Russkiy kovcheg" (original title)

7.3
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 11,831 users   Metascore: 86/100
Reviews: 169 user | 129 critic | 32 from Metacritic.com

A 19th century French aristocrat, notorious for his scathing memoirs about life in Russia, travels through the Russian State Hermitage Museum and encounters historical figures from the last 200+ years.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Sergey Dreyden ...
The Stranger (The Marquis de Custine)
Mariya Kuznetsova ...
Leonid Mozgovoy ...
The Spy
Mikhail Piotrovsky ...
Himself (Hermitage Director)
David Giorgobiani ...
Orbeli
Aleksandr Chaban ...
Boris Piotrovsky
Lev Eliseev ...
Himself
Oleg Khmelnitsky ...
Himself
Alla Osipenko ...
Herself
Artyom Strelnikov ...
Talented Boy
Tamara Kurenkova ...
Herself (Blind Woman)
Maksim Sergeyev ...
Natalya Nikulenko ...
Elena Rufanova ...
First Lady
Yelena Spiridonova ...
Second Lady
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Storyline

An unseen man regains consciousness, not knowing who or where he is. No one seems to be able to see him, except the mysterious man dressed in black. He eventually learns through their discussions that this man is a 19th century French aristocrat, who he coins the "European". This turn of events is unusual as the unseen man has a knowledge of the present day. The two quickly learn that they are in the Winter Palace of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the European who has a comprehensive knowledge of Russian history to his time. As the two travel through the palace and its grounds, they interact with people from various eras of Russian history, either through events that have happened at the palace or through the viewing of artifacts housed in the museum. Ultimately, the unseen man's desired journey is to move forward, with or without his European companion. Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

2000 cast members, 3 orchestras, 33 rooms, 300 years, ALL IN ONE TAKE See more »


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Official Sites:

Country:

| | | | |

Language:

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Release Date:

19 April 2003 (Russia)  »

Also Known As:

El arca rusa  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$75,925 (Australia) (9 May 2003)

Gross:

$37,439 (USA) (22 November 2013)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Shot in a single take. The first three attempts were cut short by technical difficulties, but the fourth was successful. See more »

Goofs

During the opening section of the film, in which the unseen narrator walks/glides through the backstage area of the opera that is being performed, there is a moment in which you can distinctly see the shadow of the boom operator following the camera. See more »

Connections

Spoofed in Russian Snark (2010) See more »

Soundtracks

Nocturn
Composed by Mikhail Glinka
Arranged and interpreted by Sergei Yevtushenko (as Sergey Yevtushenko)
Performed by The State Hermitage Orchestra
See more »

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User Reviews

A meditation on the individual's journey from life to the hereafter
21 April 2003 | by (Vancouver, B.C.) – See all my reviews

Focusing on three centuries of Russian history from Peter the Great to Tsar Nicholas II, Russian Ark, the latest film by Alexander Sokurov, is an amazing tour de force. Shot in one long 96-minute tracking shot with a cast of 2000 actors and extras, the film takes the viewer into the great Hermitage Collection in St. Petersburg, Russia, showing real works of art from 33 rooms and exploring their meaning in a larger context. More than just a great technical achievement, this is also a sublime meditation on the individual's place in the universe, one that does not recreate history but allows us to revisit it on a dreamlike stage where past, present, and future are one.

The film begins in the dark with the narrator (apparently Sokurov) commenting about how little he sees. "My eyes are open", he says, "and yet I see nothing". He does not know where he is but apparently has just died in an accident of some kind. Is this a movie? A play?" he asks. He receives no answer except a vision of 18th century aristocrats moving slowly into the Tsar's palace. An elegant white-haired man in a black cloak (Sergey Dreiden) suddenly appears and escorts the confused narrator into the corridors of the grand palace. "Everyone knows the present, but who can remember the past", says the stranger as they walk from one ballroom to the next, witnessing great works of art as well as ghost-like presences from Russia's past. We see works by El Greco, Rubens and Van Dyck in their awesome splendor. We run into Peter the Great thrashing a general, Catherine the Great looking for the bathroom, and Nicholas II, the last Russian Tsar hosting the Great Royal Ball of 1913, the last such formal occasion of its kind.

As we enter the Great Nicholas Hall, the opulent room is filled with thousands of aristocrats dancing the mazurka in gorgeous period costumes. A full orchestra is playing in the background and young soldiers are nattily dressed in their uniforms. How beautiful it all seems and how it appears they were destined to live forever but we all know how the nasty Bolsheviki spoiled the party. Ah yes, how green was my valley then. Sokurov said he wanted to make a whole film "in one breath" and he has succeeded in simulating the breathing process, pulling us in, then moving us out as we feel the rhythm of our own life beating with the swirl of lost humanity. At the end of Russian Ark, we see the peaceful flow of a river outside the hall to which the narrator comments, "The flow is forever. Life is forever." Having completed the past, our invisible guide is now ready to move into the endless silence that is, in the phrase of the Anglican priest Thomas Kelly, "the source of all sound".


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