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Thread: Russian Ark on IFFR

  1. #1
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    Russian Ark on IFFR

    While I was working on the IFFR, the International Film Festival Rotterdam, Russian Ark was certainly one of the most wanted films. Tickets sold like warm buns, like we're used to say in the Netherlands and I very much did want to see it. Unfortunately, I couldn't. The ratings were very very good and it was one of the top film, among others as Punch-Drunk Love, Divine Intervention, Ken Park and Whale Rider.

    What's so special about this film? First of all, it's a feature film that carries a whole story in just ONE SHOT. Yes, that's right, just one of about one hundred minutes. A special digital camera and frame were invented, that carried its own hard disk. The film is about the Russian hermitage (don't exactly know the meaning) and it tells the history of a certain area through a tour in a huge building. All characters (hundreds) are in costume, and I think it must be a wonderful experience to see this movie. It will be in film theater around here very soon, hope to catch it then!

  2. #2
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    Russian Ark

    I love hearing about films like this. Thanks for the info! One shot, huh? Sounds VERY interesting....
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  3. #3
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    arks

    It is amazing. And beyond being just one shot, it's one amazingly dream-like shot; one dream-like shot with something like 500+ actors getting in and out of costume off camera and setting themselves in the next scene before the camera arrives. As so much has been said about the single shot, it's important to say also that the approach is a natural extension of the theme of the film - a journey through the Hermitage between two ghosts - one, a Russian citizen and the other, a French historian, who in real life wrote a travel book on Russia. The film itself, like the Hermitage, functions as the keeper of Russian history and art. In essence, like a Russian Ark, which is a seamless collage of ideas and events. Thus the one shot is entirely congruous. Watching it is to be inside this ark. It's meditative, other-worldly and envigorating.

    P

  4. #4
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    It's unlike anything I've seen before in my life

    I wonder if you guys can relate to me. I saw "Russian Ark" two nights ago and what I got out of it was that it was a REAL 90 minute running time. It felt longer than most films but I've begun to realize that "Russian Ark" feels as if I'm experiencing 90 minutes of real life. I think because this film has just one continuous shot, that adds to the element of realism. I recall watching Alfred Hitchcock's "Rope," which had a similar running time and I was affected a similar way.

  5. #5
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    It does feel like an hour and a half. And the narrative is basically constructed around that idea: an hour and a half long shot of two people walking through the museum. What made me more aware of the actual time was thinking about the people off screen setting themselves up in the next room. An odd thing to think about while wathcing a movie.

  6. #6
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    What took so long?

    I have been patiently waiting for this film to get to Canada. It's here next week at our great Uptown Stage and Screen, and I bought an advance ticket.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  7. #7
    I just saw this last night and was impressed visually, though I think the technical exercise aspect of the film limited its storytelling capabilities in some ways. For one thing, the device of the Frenchman is necessary as a visual tour guide, and the voice of the narrator provides a good excuse for the Frenchman to "educate" him -- and the audience by extension -- and vice versa. Limitations can help focus the story, since by forcing us to identify with the Frenchman as the only recurring visual character throughout the run of the movie, the emotions and themes must be experienced by us through him. However, this same conceit prevented us from being able to learn more about the interesting subplots of characters within the rooms as we drift through them, which I felt was a pity. Then again, anything that leaves a viewer wanting more must have been done reasonably well.

    Visually stunning, and yes, the off-camera wonders ran through my head for the entire hour and a half -- notice how the scenes involving the largest casts appear at the beginning and the end of the film, so that if any mistakes are made, they can be made before too much tape is wasted, while at the end the camera drifts about somewhat aimlessly through a ball in which there's something interesting to see no matter where the camera travels. Also, being a Russian production, it lent itself well to the stagey theatrics and existentialist themes and exposition. I imagine further knowledge of Russian history and art would have lent more depth to the viewing experience, but even as a relative unknown in these waters I found myself entertained and dazzled throughout.

    However, a word of caution: I found myself also wondering several times if it was wrong of me to feel completely bored senseless. Without a specific plot to follow, all the walking through the museum at times amounts to... walking through a museum. One can only stare at opulence and a succession of opening doors for so long before desiring something to sink teeth into emotionally. Russian Ark may not have delivered on that end, and may be a trial for some attention span-challenged viewers like myself, but it's certainly a risk worth taking.

  8. #8
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    Originally posted by miseenscene
    by forcing us to identify with the Frenchman as the only recurring visual character throughout the run of the movie, the emotions and themes must be experienced by us through him.
    I found myself identifying with the unseen "cameraman"(Sokurov). This character's observations seemed to me to be more contemporary. Also, his "eyes" become ours for the entirety of the film.

    at the end the camera drifts about somewhat aimlessly through a ball in which there's something interesting to see no matter where the camera travels.
    What a glorious closing sequence. I had never before felt personally "incorporated" into a historical event to such degree.

    I imagine further knowledge of Russian history and art would have lent more depth to the viewing experience, but even as a relative unknown in these waters I found myself entertained and dazzled throughout.
    I agree on both counts. I find that knowledge of the fate that befell the guests at the formal ball accounts for my being so emotionally affected by that final sequence. It felt like a funeral for a whole way of life. On the other hand, a knowledge of Russian history is not required to enjoy the film as a technical and aesthetic marvel. Moreover, you don't have to know about Catherine II to be amused by her frantic search for the bathroom.


    I found myself wondering several times if it was wrong of me to feel completely bored senseless, may be a trial for some attention span-challenged viewers like myself, but it's certainly a risk worth taking.
    One's personal reaction to a film is always valid, never wrong. I believe snippets of Russian Ark assume some viewer's interest in the polemics between the Marquis and the cameraman. I commend your willingness to engage this film. I feel encouraged you found it "worth taking". Risky films deserve an audience. You remind me of my own "struggle" with films like Chantal Akerman's classic Jeanne Dielman.

  9. #9
    In a sense, I guess we are expected to identify with the unseen narrator. We're equally powerless to affect things as we observe these interactions. However, because the narrator spends most of his time in the passive mode, and much of his dialogue serves as a set-up or critique of the Frenchman's, it stands to reason that the Frenchman spends the better part of the movie as the catalyst -- as much as this film can have a catalyst, I suppose.

    On a technical note, I think the camera operators deserve some kind of award, and possibly some free chiropractic treatment, after having lugged a steadicam around for 90 minutes straight. That the operator is still able to nail a shift in focus in the last third of the film, when the soldiers run the Frenchman out of a landing, is extremely impressive knowing how tired the technicians must have been,

  10. #10
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    I'm steamed

    Russian Ark has been pushed back to June 20 for it's run in Calgary. (Manager says he couldn't get the print until then). I got my money back because I won't be here when it premieres. Hopfully it's showing somewhere in Van....
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  11. #11
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    Best Film of 2003

    My first day in Van proper and what's playing on Granville street? Russian Ark, thank you very much. Did I say I love this city?

    I must control my excitement and attempt to write something worthy of this film.


    To say that this is a technical marvel is an understatement. I kept thinking to myself-"What would Pudovkin make of this? No editing!!!"
    Kubrick could never make a film like this. That's not to say he wouldn't admire it- I think he wouldn't be satisfied with one take. This is the first movie where looking at the camera was embraced by a director- notice how many actors look at the camera-it's like they're looking at YOU- in this gorgeous setting. Save those costumes, Alex- you could do a remake of Gance's Austerlitz with ease. Might as well save those extras, come to think of it. A Napoleon film for the ages is ready Mr. Sokurov. Have you seen the script for Stanley's 1968 attempt? You could be my new savior, comrade.

    The film is an art attack. Were those actual Caravaggios? The man in black was like a sinister Peter O'Toole. His scene with the blind woman was mysteriously poetic.

    I love period films, but this cannot be classified as a period film due to the dips in time/reference. I don't know what you would classify this. Actually I do: GROUNDBREAKING MASTERPIECE

    I can in all confidence say that you won't see a better film released this year.

    RUSSIAN ARK is astounding art.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  12. #12
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    Re: Best Film of 2003

    Originally posted by Johann
    This is the first movie where looking at the camera was embraced by a director- notice how many actors look at the camera-it's like they're looking at YOU-

    Aleksandr Sokurov provides novel experiences for the film goer. I was so identified with the unseen man carrying the camera and retorting to the Marquis. I didn't simply feel ogled at, I felt I was speaking the lines IN RUSSIAN. The viewer meanders and absorbs the images in a seemingly random way, without a preset agenda.
    The only other Sokurov distributed in North America (out of a 30 year career combining documentary and fiction film!) is Mother and Son. It provides yet another re-definition of how to process visual information.


    A Napoleon film for the ages is ready Mr. Sokurov.
    The film is an art attack.
    Indeed. Sokurov has apparently tackled Hitler and Stalin. Maybe the success of Russian Ark triggers the release of Whispering Pages or Moloch or ...

  13. #13
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    Re: Re: Best Film of 2003

    Maybe the success of Russian Ark triggers the release of Whispering Pages or Moloch or ...

    We can only hope.

    I went shopping to the Virgin Records mega store and noticed that my silent "German Horror" box set is now obsolete.
    KINO apparently has the rights to The Golem, Caligari & Nosferatu. They've added awesome features on each. I hate replacing DVD's. But it must be done.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  14. #14
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    Nosferatu on dvd

    I read that the best of several dvd releases of Nosferatu is the one with longer duration because they used the original speed of 18 frames per second. Also the original color tinting and two different scores are provided. I think it's the more recent Image release but not cetain.

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