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russian ark

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This 96-minute film was shot in one take, using one camera, throughout the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia. That one take brought the camera through 35 rooms of the Hermitage and has thousands of actors re-enacting events occuring across 4 centuries of history.
Russian Ark follows the Narrator as he explores the Hermitage (and we get to see his point of view through the camera). The Narrator doesn't know how he arrived there, but he soon realizes that he is in the 1700s. After wandering for a bit in the palace, seemingly invisible to the crowd around him, he runs into another person who seems to be sharing the exploration. The Narrator, along with the newly introduced Frenchman, explore the mansion together, travelling through many time periods as they move from room to room, seeing and interacting with many important events in Russian history.
Technically, this film is amazing. It is hard to imagine the logisitical nightmare it must have been to film this beast, and the director, cinematographer, and crew deserve to be applauded for pulling it off so well. Anyone who enjoys film or is interested in technique would likewise be appreciative . The subtitles seemed to be lacking in certain spots: while the dialogue between the Narrator and Marquis was pretty well covered, but lots of the incidental conversation behind them was completely lost. While this is to be expected in a subtitled film, there were streaks where the two primary actors were silent, the camera was pointed directly at actors engaged in dialogue, and no subtitles were to be found.
In addition, I think that some of plot was lost in the translation. Perhaps the plot was just as ambiguous in Russian, but at times the mere task of figuring out what was going on was easily distracting from the action on screen. Regardless of this minor bitching, this film is a testament to the quality of modern digital cameras—the 90 minute, no edit, runtime of the show was only made possible by today's digital "film" technology. It would be nice to see this film projected in a digital theater: while it was beautiful transferred to 35mm, it would probably be even more so projected from the digital master.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 August 2005 23:48  


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