“Russian Ark (Русский ковчег)” (2002) is an experimental historical fantasy film set in the Hermitage Museum, Russia. It depicts the 300 years of history of the Romanov Dynasty as a great panorama, interweaving past and present, and reality and fantasy. It is an amazing film featuring a one-take single 90-minute shot. A Russian-German co-operation. Directed by Alexander Sokurov. 96 minutes.
The State Hermitage Museum, which was founded in 1764 by Empress Catherine the Great, is located in Saint Petersburg, and situated on the Neva River. It is the largest art museum in the world.
The film was recorded in the Winter Palace of the Hermitage Museum on December 23rd, 2001 in uncompressed high-definition video using a Sony digital movie camera HDW-F900.
The film was shot from the first-person perspective of an unnamed voice-over narratior (Alexander Sokurov), like a ghost. The narratior with the camera follows “the European” (Sergey Dreyden), a person modelled on the Marquis de Custine (a 19th-century French diplomat and travel writer), who wanders through the museum with displayed art works.
Wandering through the museum, the narratior and “The European” encounter various scenes: Catherine the Great watching a stage play, the imperial audience in which Tsar Nicholas I is offered an apology by the Persian mission for the murder of diplomat Alexander Griboyedov in 1829, and Tsar Nicholas II dining with his family.
The highlight of the film is the last scene of a gorgeous ball, in which Valery Gergiev conducts the Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre and performs “Mazurka” from the opera “A Life for the Tsar” (1836) composed by Mikhail Glinka.