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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Third part in Aleksandr Sokurov's quadrilogy of Power, following Moloch (1999) and Taurus (2001), focuses on Japanese Emperor Hirohito and Japan's defeat in World War II when he is finally confronted by General Douglas MacArthur who offers him to accept a diplomatic defeat for survival.
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
This documentary-type movie, done all in one long, unbroken take with a steadicam, has the camera basically hovering around a famous Russian museum for an hour and-a-half as the unseen film director (both by us and the others in the museum) makes comments, as if in a dream, and converses with a French, former diplomat from the 1800s. It's a mix of a museum tour, Russian history, and performance art -- Catherine the Great appears at one point, desperately looking for the toilet. I liked it because it's about the closest thing to a dreamstate you can get in film, something like the long tracking shots in Tarkovsky's movies; I didn't get a lot of the references to Russian historical figures, but it doesn't really matter. However, if you know Russian history, you may get extra enjoyment out of it and might latch onto the sarcastic bits better than I did. I think this is a real achievement; a perfect example of how style is substance. 9/10
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