Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Russian Ark

(Russia, 2002)

One of the most amazing films I have ever seen. It is about 90 minutes long, and consists of one continuous shot, winding all over the corridors and vast rooms of the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg. This is done with high-definition video and a steadicam weighing about 80 pounds; just carrying the damn thing is an heroic achievement. Then consider that about half a dozen people, director and crew, have to follow along, always staying out of sight, and that literally thousands of actors and extras, all in period costumes, must hit each and every mark without fail, never go up on their lines, in a location where they have not been able to rehearse … and they have the Hermitage for only one day … They had one false start, had to begin again, and then got it right, though the cameraman said at about the 70th minute he was ready to collapse. Okay, that’s the technical achievement. The film itself is a tour through the history of Russia, with a guide who, from time to time, irritated me a bit. But the grandeur of the place, the stunning ceremonies, dances, and shows within the show left me totally in awe at the end. I couldn’t recommend it more highly.