Russian master Alexander Sokurov has tapped into the very flow of history itself for the flabbergasting Russian Ark
. Thanks to the miracles of digital video, Sokurov (and cinematographer Tilman Buttner) uses a single, unbroken, 90-minute shot to wind his way through the Hermitage in St Petersburg--the repository of Russian art and the former home to royalty. Gliding through time, we glimpse Catherine II, modern-day museumgoers, and the doomed family of Nicholas II. History collapses on itself, as the opulence of the past and the horrors of the 20th century collide, and each door that opens onto yet another breathtaking gallery is another century to be heard from. The movie climaxes with a grand ball and thousands of extras, prompting thoughts of just how crazy Sokurov had to be to try a technical challenge like this--and how far a distance we've travelled, both physically and spiritually, since the movie began. --Robert Horton
A groundbreaking feat of filmmaking, Alexander Sokurov's amazing journey through 300 years of Russian art and history is the first ever feature to be shot in a single, unedited take - the ultimate director's cut. Magically transported to St Petersburg's Hermitage museum in the early 1700s, a contemporary filmmaker and a cynical 19th Century French diplomat become accomplices in an extraordinary voyage through Russia's turbulent past to the present day. As they explore the splendid corridors and salons of the Palace, the two men witness prominent historical figures enacting startling scenes from the Tsarist Empire. Digitally shot with a state-of-the-art high definition steadicam and featuring a masterfully orchestrated cast of 2,000, Russian Ark is destined to stand as a defining moment of cinema history.