Apr 14, 2008

20th April 2008; Screening of RUSSIAN ARK

Stunning, haunting, fascinating...
a powerful and moving insight
into a beautiful, complex culture.

Russian Ark

A film by Aleksandr Sokurov
Country : Russia
Year : 2002
Run time : 99 minutes
Russian with English sub titles
Call : 9443039630

20th April 2008 ; 5.45 pm
Ashwin Hospital Auditorium

A 44 minutes short documentary on making of this film : In One Breath: Alexander Sokurov's Russian Ark will be screened after the main film.

"Russian Ark" is a magnificent conjuring act, an eerie historical mirage evoked in a single sweeping wave of the hand by Alexander Sokurov. The 96-minute film, shot in high-definition video in the Hermitage at St. Petersburg, consists of one continuous, uninterrupted take. Thanks to recent technological innovation, it is the longest unbroken shot in the history of film. As the Steadicam operated by Tilman Büttner (the German cinematographer of "Run Lola Run") floats through the museum's galleries, a cast of 2,000 actors and extras act out random, whimsical moments of Russian imperial history that dissolve into one other like chapters of a dream.

Mr. Sokurov, who has always been drawn to historical subjects, has said that he wanted to capture "the flow of time" in a pure cinematic language that suggests "a single breath." And that's what "Russian Ark" accomplishes as it drops in on Russian monarchs from Peter the Great to Nicholas II and catches them living their lives unaware that they're being observed. These keyhole flashes from the past evoke a sense of history that is at once intimate and distanced, and ultimately sad: so much life, so much beauty, swallowed in the mists of time.

"Russian Ark" is a ghost story set in the Hermitage, the museum that is the pride of St. Petersburg and the repository — the ark, if you will — of more Russian history and culture than any other place. Among its components are the Winter Palace (the former residence of the Russian czars) and sections devoted to Russian history and to the life and work of Alexander Pushkin.

The film is narrated in a thoughtful murmur by a contemporary artist who awakens to find himself lost in the 1800's amid a jostling crowd pouring through a side entrance of the Hermitage. As he follows the flow, he catches sight of another out-of-place figure, the Marquis (Sergey Dreiden), a frizzy-haired 19th-century French diplomat dressed in black and the only person to acknowledge his presence. As the two strays wander through the galleries, they carry on a sporadic dialogue in which the Frenchman continually snipes at Russian culture.

Along the way they chance upon Peter the Great beating one of his generals, and Catherine the Great breaking away from a rehearsal of her own play to search frantically for a place to relieve herself.

In another, darker time warp, the Marquis strays through the wrong door and finds himself in a chilly outdoor workshop amid drifting snow, and listens dumbfounded to a description of 20th-century horrors that have yet to take place.

The movie culminates in what may well be the ne plus ultra of period cinematic pomp: a re-creation of the last great royal ball held at the Hermitage under Czar Nicholas II in 1913, shortly before the Bolshevik Revolution. To the strains of Glinka, hundreds of glitteringly attired courtiers dance the mazurka to a live symphony orchestra.This extraordinary sequence more powerfully evokes the historical blindness of an entitled elite blissfully oblivious to the fact that it is standing in quicksand that is about to give.

(Courtesy: New York Times)

Russian Ark's Cinematographer Tilman Buttner Interview

Tilman Buttner is the celebrated German cinematographer of "Run Lola Run". Click on the captions below for his interview on filming of Russian Ark .

INTERVIEW: Achieving the Cinematic Impossible; "Russian Ark" DP Tilman Buttner Discusses What It's Like To Make History

Alexander Sokurov

Alexander Sokurov is a Russian film maker, who possesses an enormous cinematic gift. Sokurov's style of filmmaking is often compared to that of Andrei Tarkovsky. However, Sokurov himself, while not resenting the comparison, does resist this linkage.

Both of them are "spiritual" filmmakers in the sense that, in their art they concern themselves with profound questions of human existence and seek to give visible expression to the INNER reality of their being. However, it is precisely in their inner realities that the two could not be more different from each other.

Alexander Sokurov was born in Russia in 1951 .After graduating from high school in 1968, the future filmmaker entered Gorky University (Department of History). While a student he began working as a staff member for the Gorky television .In the course of 6 years at the GorkyGorky University. television Sokurov created several films and live TV shows. In 1974 he got his first degree in History from the

In 1975 Sokurov entered the Producer's Department at the All-Union Cinematography Institute (VGIK, Moscow) (Documentary Film studio of Alexander Zguridi). As an excellent student of VGIK he was granted the Eisenstein Scholarship.

His first feature film, which later received a number of awards, was "The Lonely Voice of a Man," after an original story by the Russian writer Andrey Platonov; it was not accepted as a graduating project. It was at that time that he received support from the outstanding film director Andrey Tarkovsky, who was out of favor with the authorities at that time and very highly appreciated Sokurov's first work. Sokurov's friendship with Tarkovsky did not come to an end even when the latter left Russia.

With Tarkovsky's recommendation letter Sokurov was employed by the film studio "Lenfilm" in 1980, where he worked on his first feature films. At the same time Sokurov worked at the Leningrad Studio for Documentary Films, where he has made all of his documentaries at different times.

In the late 80s a number of his early feature and documentary films were released for public performance and represented the Russian film industry at many international festivals. In the 80-90s he sometimes made several feature and documentary films in one year.

He has been a participant and laureate of many international festivals. Every year his films are shown in various foreign countries. Several times he has received awards from international festivals.

In 1995 the European Film Academy listed Sokurov as being among the best 100 directors of world cinema. At the present moment he is in the process of founding a film studio, "Bereg," for non-commercial feature and documentary films. The foundation for this venture is laid by Sokurov's camera crew at "Lenfilm".

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