The film, “The Russian Ark”, directed by Alexsandr Sukorov, is a wonderful story based around the Russian State Hermitage Museum. The film is in a very strange style, with only one camera shot comprising the whole of the viewtime. At first, it was quite unsettling; I must admit that I felt a bit like Sartre’s characters in his play, “No Exit”, with the ability to blink having been taken away from me. After a while, however, the story makes use of this style of cinematography and uses it to add to the feeling of confusion that one can feel in sympathizing with the main character. Something that I still can’t get my mind around is the tremendous amount of effort it must have taken to put the film together, as all 800-something actors would have had to know their parts completely perfectly for each take, having only one chance to get their part right before having to start all over again.
One is introduced after a while to the Marquis, or the European as he is referred to by the main character, nameless himself. The Marquis is a sort of time-travelling character, ageless and wise. Excuse my science-fiction reference, but he reminds me of the Doctor, from Doctor Who, fumbling through time and space, alas all alone. The pair walk through the corridors of the museum, travelling also through time as they meet various characters in Russian history, such as Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, and the last Romanov Tsar, Nicholas. As the film progresses, one learns the opinions of the Marquis, being himself all too ready to reveal them. His character develops until the very end, when he refuses to go on with the main character past a ball and out of the museum, showing that he is entrapped in the affairs of history to such an extent that he might not be able to bear normal existence outside of the museum walls. In this, he reminds me of Mr. Dorrit from the Dickens novel, afraid to walk outside of the prison walls in which he has lived for years.
All in all, this was a wonderful film which I would recommend that anyone watch. It was truly enjoyable and I know I’m watching it again!